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M4R 18 IS/4 

Copyright, 1914, 

Published March, 1914. 




Editor's Introduction .... . v 

I. For Whom this Book is Written . . 1 

II. Was my Son Born with Extraordinary 

Aptitudes? 8 

III. Did my Educational Work Proceed Suc- 

cessfully? . . 15 

IV. Is my Son's Education Finished? ... 21 

V. Every Ordinarily Organized Child may 
Become a Superior Man, if He is 
Properly Educated 25 

VI. Did I Intend to Make a Precocious 

Scholar out of my Son? . . . . 63 

VII. How Came my Son to be a Precocious 

Scholar? 69 

VIII. Did I Pretend to have the Necessary 

Skill for Making a Scholar of my 
Son? 87 

IX. Objections to the Early Education of 

my Son 104 

X. Did my Son Profit from his Early Edu- 
cation? . . 113 


iv Contents 


XI. Should Children be Left to Them- 
selves up to their Seventh or Eighth 
Year? 123 

XII. What we did to Guard Karl against 
Flattery, or, at Least, to Weaken 
its Venom 135 

XIII. Karl's Toys and the First Steps in His 

Mental Education 158 

XIV. Must Children Play Much with Other 

Children? . 183 

XV. Karl's Diet 190 

XVI. What we did for Karl's Moral Edu- 
cation 213 

XVII. How Karl Learned to Read and Write 223 

XVIII. On the Separation of Work and Play 235 

XIX. Concerning Rewards 239 

XX. How Karl Learned the Languages . 247 

XXI. Karl's Education in the Sciences . . 280 

XXII. The Cultivation of Taste .... 284 

XXIII. Karl Goes to College 287 


When, less than six months ago, I suggested 
in the course of an article contributed to The 
Outlook, the great desirability of an English 
translation of that remarkable book, "Karl 
Witte: Oder Erziehungs- und Bildungsge- 
schichte Desselben. Ein Buch fur Eltern und 
Erziehende," I had no idea that the opportu- 
nity would so soon be afforded of assisting to 
carry out this suggestion myself. There are 
few tasks I have undertaken that have ap- 
pealed to me so strongly, for the reason that 
Pastor Witte's account of the early home 
training of his son must unquestionably be re- 
garded as one of the most inspiring and help- 
ful contributions ever made to the literature 
of education. I say this with full apprecia- 
tion of the fact that nearly a hundred years 
have passed since it was written, and that in 
the meantime it has dropped so completely 
out of sight that few even among the most 
erudite exponents of the modern "science of 
pedagogy" have any acquaintance with it. In 

vi Editor's Introduction 

fact, so far as I am aware, and I have made 
diligent inquiry, the copy from which this 
first translation into English has been made — 
and which I found reposing long undisturbed 
in the Treasure Room of Harvard University 
Library — is the only copy in the United 

There are two reasons for Witte's book 
having thus fallen into temporary oblivion. 
In its original form it is a book which, to em- 
ploy the quaint but extremely expressive Ger- 
man phrase, "does not allow itself to be read." 
Not only is it excessively long, running to 
more than a thousand pages of print, but it is 
burdened with a mass of disquisitional pas- 
sages which too often are of little importance, 
and which, in addition to exhausting the read- 
er's patience, have the effect of diminishing 
his appreciation of the value of the educa- 
tional method which Witte laboriously and 
disconnectedly details. Consequently it has 
been a necessary task, in connection with the 
present translation, to eliminate as far as pos- 
sible the superfluous and beclouding material, 
while at the same time endeavoring to omit 
nothing really essential to an understanding 
of the principles guiding Witte in the educa- 

Editor s Introduction vii 

tion of his son. But even had it not been 
weighted down by a heavy handicap of form 
and style, his book was foredoomed to be left 
for many years unread and unheeded because 
of the impossibility of reconciling its teach- 
ings with the "established" educational doc- 
trines of the age. 

Witte's fundamental principle — that the 
education of a child should begin with the 
dawning of the child's intelligence — came 
into direct collision with the accepted peda- 
gogical policy of refraining from anything in 
the way of formal education until the child 
reached "school age." By beginning too soon 
to teach and train a child, the prevalent theory 
ran, not only will the child be robbed of the 
joys of childhood but there will also be grave 
danger of seriously, perhaps irreparably, in- 
juring his health by overstraining his mind. 
It was in vain that Witte could and did point 
to the success of his daring experiment in the 
upbringing of his own child. The outcome 
of that experiment, in the opinion of most 
educational authorities, proved, not the wis- 
dom of the course followed, but the excep- 
tional innate ability of the child on whom the 
experiment was made. 

viii Editor s Introduction 

This insistence on the propriety of allow- 
ing the mind of the very young child to "lie 
fallow" has continued to be the dominant 
feature in pedagogical thought to the present 
day. The inevitable result, especially in coun- 
tries having a highly developed public school 
system, has been to throw virtually the whole 
burden of education on the schools. And not 
until recent years has there been any real ap- 
preciation of the fact that the schools are not 
able to carry it. To-day, however, in addi- 
tion to widespread and not altogether helpful 
denunciation of the "breakdown of the pub- 
lic school system," educators are seriously be- 
ginning to ask themselves if too much has not 
been expected of the schools; if their "failure 
to develop really rational men and women" 1 
is not in great part due to the unworkability 
of the material — the boys and girls of the na- 
tion — with which the schools have to deal; 
and if this unworkability in its turn may not 
chiefly be the result of neglecting to begin 

*As charged, for example, in Dr. Charles W. Eliot's dec- 
laration : "Our common schools have failed signally to cul- 
tivate general intelligence, as is evinced by the failure to 
deal adequately with the liquor problem, by the prevalence 
of gambling, of strikes accompanied by violence, and by the 
persistency of the spoils system." 

Editor s Introduction ix 

the process of education in the home before 
the boys and girls are old enough to be sent 
to school. 

In support of this new view stress is laid 
on certain results of recent scientific research; 
results going to show, for example, that early 
impressions are the most lasting, that early 
childhood is undoubtedly the time when hab- 
its good or bad are most readily formed, and 
that neglect of a child's mentality in early 
life may mean lifelong mental inferiority. In 
fact, notwithstanding the orthodox pedagogi- 
cal dread of infantile overstrain, scientific stu- 
dents of the nature and characteristics of man 
are beginning boldly to assert that the sooner 
a child's education is begun the better it will 
be for that child. As one able investigator, 
Dr. T. A. Williams, of Washington, has re- 
cently put it: 

An impression prevails that growing organs should not 
be subjected to work. This is a gross error; for organs 
which do not work cannot grow well. Even the bones 
become tough, hard, and large in proportion to the 
stresses to which they are subjected by frequent and 
vigorous pulls where the muscles are attached. . . . 
What is true of structure is true of functional power. 
From ballet dancers to violin virtuosi, artists must be 
trained from early youth. It may be objected that this 

Editor s Introduction 

is because muscular agility is required, but this objection 
is only superficial; for dexterity of an artist is made pos- 
sible, not in virtue of superior coordinations of move- 
ments themselves, but by means of the superior speed and 
accuracy of the guiding mental processes which reside in 
the brain. Since intellectual activity is also a result of or- 
derly functioning of mental processes seated in the brain, 
it should be manifest that these too should reach excel- 
lence best when they are trained by a capable hand dur- 
ing the formative period of early youth. This a priori 
assumption I believe to be borne out by experience. 1 

Writing to the same effect, another brilliant 
American medical psychologist, Dr. Boris 
Sidis, unhesitatingly affirms that in the case 
of the vast majority of children the proper 
time for beginning their education is in the 
second or third year of life. He adds: 

It is at that time that the child begins to form his 
interests. It is at that critical period that we have to 
seize the opportunity to guide the child's formative ener- 
gies in the right channels. To delay is a mistake and a 
wrong to the child. We can at that early period awaken 
a love of knowledge which will persist through life. 
The child will as eagerly play in the game of knowledge 
as he now spends the most of his energies in meaningless 
games and objectless silly sports. 

We claim we are afraid to force the child's mind. 
We claim we are afraid to strain his brain prematurely. 
This is an error. In directing the course of the use of 
the child's energies we do not force the child. If we do 

1 In The Pedagogical Seminary, Vol. XVIII, p. 85. 

Editor's Introduction xi 

not direct the energies in the right course, the child will 
waste them in the zvrong direction. ... In my prac- 
tice as physician in nervous and mental diseases, I can 
say without hesitation that I have not met a single case 
of nervous or mental trouble caused by too much think- 
ing or overstudy. This is now the opinion of the best 
psychopathologists. What produces nervousness is worry, 
emotional excitement, and lack of interest in the work. 
But that is precisely what we do with our children. We 
do not take care to develop a love of knowledge in their 
early life for fear of brain injury, and then when it is 
late to acquire the interest we force them to study, and 
we cram them and feed them and stuff them like geese. 
What you often get is fatty degeneration of the mental 

If, however, you do not neglect the child between the 
second and third year, and see to it that the brain 
should not be starved, should have its proper function, 
like the rest of the bodily organs, by developing an in- 
terest in intellectual activity and love of knowledge, no 
forcing of the child to study is afterward requisite. The 
child will go on by himself, — he will derive intense en- 
joyment from his intellectual activity, as he does from 
his games and physical exercise. The child will be 
stronger, healthier, sturdier than the present average 
child, with its purely animal activities and total neglect 
of brain-function. His physical and mental development 
will go apace. He will not be a barbarian with animal 
proclivities and a strong distaste for knowledge and 
mental enjoyment, but he will be a strong, healthy, 
thinking man. 1 

1 In "Philistine and Genius," pp. 67-68, 84-86, Moffat, Yard 
& Co., New York, 1911. The italics in the passages quoted 
are Dr. Sidis's. 

xii Editor's Introduction 

Now, this is the very position that was taken 
by Karl Witte a hundred years ago. In an 
age when no enlightenment was possible to 
him from anthropology, psychology, and the 
allied modern sciences that have for their 
chief object the study of human characteris- 
tics; in an age when tradition and dogma 
still enslaved pedagogical theory, this humble 
country clergyman in a little German village 
arrived by some miraculous power of intui- 
tion at the selfsame conclusions held by the 
most advanced educational thinkers of the 
present day. Surely it is not surprising, on 
the one hand, that his book made no impres- 
sion on the people of his own generation; and 
on the other hand that, after having lain so 
long unnoticed, it now challenges attention 
in the light of the increasing recognition that 
the education of the schoolroom must be sup- 
plemented and preceded by the education of 
the home. My own belief is that it offers to 
parents precisely the information and guid- 
ance indispensable to the proper performance 
of this all-important task. 

Certainly the educational method adopted 
by Witte is so simple that it can be utilized by 
anybody; and certainly the results obtained 

Editor s Introduction xiii 

in the case of his son are of a character that 
must appeal to every right-minded parent. 
Let me briefly review the facts, as set forth 
partly in the present volume and partly in the 
son's career subsequent to the writing of his 
father's account of his education. 

The elder Witte, as has just been said, was 
a clergyman in a German village, a man of 
simple habits but of uncommonly original and 
forceful ways of thinking. Looking at the 
world about him, he saw it peopled largely 
with men and women who wasted their ener- 
gies in all sorts of dissipation. As a moralist 
he was saddened and depressed by the drunk- 
enness, gambling, sexual irregularities, that he 
found everywhere. Still more he marveled 
that such things could be, among rational hu- 
man beings. 

"These poor people," he reflected, "do not 
reason, do not use their God-given intellects. 
If they did they would spend their lives alto- 
gether differently, and would devote them- 
selves to things of true worth. The trouble 
must be that they have not been educated 
aright. They have not been taught how to 
think and what to think about. They have 
been started wrong in life. The schools and 

xiv Editor's Introduction 

universities are to blame, but their parents are 
far more to blame. If love of the good, the 
beautiful, and the true had been implanted 
properly in them in early youth, if they had 
been trained from the first really to use 
their minds, they would not now be living so 

Holding such views, Witte carefully 
mapped out a program which he proceed- 
ed to follow in the upbringing of his son 
Karl, who was born in July of the year 1800. 
As its foundation it had the theory that since 
children are essentially thinking animals they 
are certain, from the moment they first use 
their minds, to draw inferences and arrive at 
conclusions regarding everything they see, 
hear, and touch; but if left to themselves will 
inevitably, because of their inability unaided 
to form sound critical judgments, acquire 
wrong interests and thought habits which all 
the education of later life may not be able 
wholly to overcome. It was Witte's great 
aim, therefore, to direct and develop his son's 
reasoning powers in the plastic, formative 
years of childhood — to "start him thinking 

He began, even before the little fellow 

Editor's Introduction xv 

could speak, by naming to him different parts 
of the human body, the objects in his bed- 
room, etc. As the boy grew older, so that 
he could toddle up and down stairs and walk 
with his father through their garden and in 
the streets and fields of his native village of 
Lochau, Witte gradually widened the horizon 
of his knowledge, giving him ever more in- 
formation about matters of practical utility or 
aesthetic worth. 

He encouraged the child to ask questions, 
and in his replies went as fully as he could 
into the whys and wherefores of whatever 
was under discussion. Above all things he 
avoided giving superficial answers, for it was 
his chief object to impress upon Karl the de- 
sirability of thoroughness, the importance of 
reasoning closely and carefully, of appreciat- 
ing analogies, dissimilarities, relationships, 
and also of being able to reason logically from 
cause to effect. Nor in their daily walks and 
conversations did he make any attempt to 
"talk down" to his son, as so many parents are 
wont to do. "Baby talk" had no place in 
his program. Since language is the tool of 
thought, he argued, every child should be 
taught as soon as possible to express itself in 

xvi Editor's Introduction 

its mother tongue, clearly, fluently, purely. 
Not the least important element in Karl's 
education, in his father's opinion, was the 
systematic drilling he received in the correct 
pronunciation of letters and words, and in the 
correct use of the different parts of speech. 
His father insisted, too, that all others who 
talked with the child — his mother, the maid 
of all work, family visitors — should be care- 
ful how they spoke in his presence. 

Under this system of intensive child culture 
Karl soon displayed not only a remarkable 
degree of intelligence but also a love of 
knowledge rarely seen in boys of any age. Be- 
fore he was seven all who knew him were 
dumfounded at the proofs he gave of the 
great extent to which he had profited from 
his early training. Most impressive were his 
logical habits of mind, the fullness and accu- 
racy of the information he even then possessed 
on a number of subjects, and his linguistic 

His study of foreign languages began with 
French, which his father taught him in a 
novel way, fully described in the chapter on 
his education in the languages. So successful 
was this special method that within a year 

Editors Introduction xvii 

Karl was reading French with ease. Mean- 
while he had begun the study of Italian, and 
from Italian passed to Latin. English came 
next, then the study of Greek, a language con- 
cerning which the boy's curiosity was whetted 
by tales from Homer and Xenophon told to 
him by his father. In every case the process 
was chiefly one of self-education, the father 
answering — when he could — the questions put 
to him by Karl, but always insisting that the 
proper way to learn anything is to overcome 
its difficulties for oneself. In all five lan- 
guages the boy made such progress that by 
the time he was nine, according to his father's 
statement, he had read Homer, Plutarch, 
Virgil, Cicero, Ossian, Fenelon, Florian, and 
Metastasio, besides Schiller and other Ger- 
man writers. 

Naturally his fame spread far and wide, 
and with its spreading much sharp criticism 
of his father was heard. He was accused of 
fanatically endeavoring to convert the child 
into a weird thinking machine, and of endan- 
gering his healtR and sanity. Karl himself 
was pictured as a pale, anemic, goggle-eyed 
"freak," who was vastly to be pitied. In real- 
ity he was a happy, joyous youngster, strong 

xviii Editor's Introduction 

of body and mind, as is impressively testified 
in the letter from the philologist Heyne to 
the philosopher and poet Wieland, printed on 
a later page. It was with reason that, in an- 
swering his critics, Witte indignantly denied 
Karl's alleged ill-health; and justly, too, he 
disclaimed the prodigy-making ambitions at- 
tributed to himself. All that he wished to do, 
as he explicitly states in his book, was to make 
sure that his son would enter adult life with 
well-trained mental as well as physical 
powers; if he thus early displayed marked in- 
tellectual ability, this was in itself proof of 
the great advantages to be gained by begin- 
ning education almost at the outset of ex- 

Nor were Karl's studies as a little boy con- 
fined to the languages and literature. Aiming 
to make of him a well-rounded man, his fa- 
ther strove earnestly to awaken in him a love 
of art and science. Neither artist nor scien- 
tist himself, he none the less believed firmly 
that if he could only interest his son suffi- 
ciently in artistic and scientific subjects he 
would study them enthusiastically of his own 
accord. To this end he adopted the plan of 
taking Karl with him whenever he journeyed 

Editor s Introduction xix 

to Halle, Leipsic, or any other German city. 
There they would visit art galleries, natural 
history museums, zoological and botanical 
gardens, and all manner of manufacturing 
establishments, mines, shops, etc. Thus, 
under the guise of entertainment, Witte was 
able to impart to his son much elemen- 
tary instruction in zoology, botany, physics, 
chemistry, etc. Always he emphasized the 
interrelationship of things, the importance of 
grasping first principles and of learning 
everything thoroughly. 

And, in addition to these visits of explora- 
tion, he systematically utilized familiar, com- 
monplace objects for the purposes of scientific 
education. He threw about them an attrac- 
tive cloak of mystery, which piqued the boy's 
curiosity and made him eager to press for- 
ward to a solution. He also devised games 
through which he contrived to familiarize 
Karl with fundamental facts in various de- 
partments of knowledge. Always, however, 
he was careful to keep well in the background 
the educational purposes he had in view. To 
quote his own words : 

"He would have been greatly surprised if 
told that he had been studying geography, 

xx Editor's Introduction 

physics, and so forth. I had carefully avoid- 
ed the use of such terms, partly in order not 
to frighten him, and partly in order not to 
make him vain." 

By the age of nine, in fact, Karl had learned 
so much, and was so well trained in the use 
of his mental powers, that his father deter- 
mined to send him to college. Six months 
later, accordingly, the boy matriculated at 
Leipsic University, to begin a scholastic ca- 
reer of marvelous achievement. It is not 
necessary here to give details of it, as a full 
account will be found in the closing chapter. 
Enough to say that in 1814, before he had 
passed his fourteenth birthday, he was granted 
the Ph.D. distinction, and two years later, at 
the age of sixteen, was made a Doctor of Laws, 
being also appointed to the teaching staff of 
the University of Berlin! 

Instead, however, of immediately begin- 
ning professorial duties, Karl, with the aid of 
no less a personage than the King of Prussia, 
now spent a few years in foreign travel, and 
it was during a sojourn in Italy that an event 
occurred which had an important bearing on 
his after-life. In Florence, where he resided 
for some time, he chanced to make the ac- 

Editor s Introduction xxi 

quaintance of a talented woman, who, speak- 
ing one day of the masters of Italian litera- 
ture, said to him, half in jest and half in 

"There is one Italian writer, the greatest of 
all, whose books I should advise you to let 
alone. We Italians sometimes try to persuade 
ourselves that we understand Dante, but we do 
not. If a foreigner sets about it, we can 
scarcely repress a smile." 

One of Karl's first acts after this extraor- 
dinary speech was to buy an elaborate edition 
of the "Divine Comedy." Reading it thought- 
fully, he next read what the commentators had 
to say about it, and was at once impressed with 
what he considered the narrowness, thinness, 
and downright error of their views. Fasci- 
nated by the magic of the great word-painter's 
verse, he promised himself that some day he 
would institute a campaign for the better ap- 
preciation of Dante; and this promise he ful- 
filled five years later by the publication, in 
Germany, of one of the most important lit- 
erary essays of the nineteenth century. It was 
entitled "On Misunderstanding Dante," and 
concerning it a modern authority on the study 
of Dante, Mr. Philip H. Wicksteed, in an in- 

xxii Editor's Introduction 

troduction to a translation of Witte's "Essays 
on Dante," has this to say: 

If the history of the revival of interest in Dante 
which has characterized this century should ever be writ- 
ten, Karl Witte would be the chief hero of the tale. He 
was little more than a boy when, in 1823, he entered the 
lists against existing Dante scholars, all and sundry, dem- 
onstrated that there was not one of them that knew his 
task, and announced his readiness to teach it to them. 
The amazing thing is that he fully accomplished his 
vaunt. His essay exercised a growing influence in Ger- 
many, and then in Europe; and after five-and-forty years 
of indefatigable and fruitful toil, he was able to look 
back upon his youthful attempt as containing the germ 
of all his subsequent work on Dante. But now, instead 
of the audacious young heretic and revolutionist, he was 
the acknowledged master of the most prominent Dante 
scholars in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, England, and 

In fact, as I stated in my Outlook article, 1 
"The Story of Karl Witte," of which this 
summary of his career is an abridgment, there 
came from Witte's pen, almost to the time of 
his death, a steady succession of essays, com- 
mentaries, and translations, to serve as a con- 
tinual stimulus to an ever-widening circle of 
Dante scholars. Yet all the while the propa- 
gation of his views on Dante, and the foster- 

1 The Outlook, Vol. C, pp. 211-218. 

Editors Introduction xxiii 

ing of a love for Dante, were but incidental 
to Witte's real life-work. That was the teach- 
ing of the principles of law, both in the class- 
room and by the pen. It was in 1821, shortly 
after his return from abroad, that he was 
established as a lecturer on jurisprudence at 
the University of Breslau, being appointed to 
a full professorship two years later — at the 
age of twenty-three! — and being transferred 
to Halle in 1834. There, teaching and writing 
and gaining ever greater renown, he passed 
the remainder of his life. 

Long before he died, honored and lamented, 
in his eighty-third year, every one of the wise- 
acres who had so confidently prophesied a 
short and unhappy existence for him, had 
preceded him to the grave. Still further to 
confound their dire predictions, he retained 
to the last his great mental powers ; and to the 
last he fondly cherished the memory of the 
father who had so carefully planned and so 
faithfully carried out his early education. 

Such in rough outline is the record of Karl 
Witte's intellectual training and achievement. 
Did it stand by itself it might plausibly be ar- 
gued, as the contemporaries of the elder Witte 
argued, that in the last analysis the essential 

xxiv Editors Introduction 

thing was not the training given by the father 
but the possession of extraordinary native tal- 
ent by the son. But the interesting fact re- 
mains to be noted that Witte's experiment does 
not stand alone. Since his time — in some in- 
stances, I do not doubt, as a direct result of 
the reading of his book — it has been repeated 
by a number of other parents, and always with 
a similar result. 

The children thus trained from infancy 
have not broken down in bodily or mental 
health; on the contrary they have been if any- 
thing stronger of physique than the average 
child, while mentally they have, like Karl 
Witte, developed and retained powers incom- 
parably superior to those of the average child. 
When this uniformity of result is taken into 
account; when it is pondered in the light of 
the findings of modern psychology with re- 
spect to the formative influences of environ- 
ment, habit, suggestion, etc.; when regard is 
had to the demonstrated inability of the 
schools to attain the ends expected of them, it 
manifestly becomes imperative to acknowl- 
edge both the advisability and the wonderful 
developmental possibilities of education in the 
home and by the parent. 

Editor s Introduction xxv 

Compare, for example, the results obtained 
in the case of Karl Witte with those obtained 
by a certain James Thomson, who in the early 
part of last century was a mathematical mas- 
ter in a Belfast academy. Thomson, like 
Witte's father, and possibly in consequence of 
acquaintance with the latter's work, firmly be- 
lieved in the importance of beginning a child's 
education in the first years of life, and had the 
courage of his convictions when blessed with 
children of his own. With the loyal coopera- 
tion of his wife, he taught them to spell and 
read almost as soon as they could utter words ; 
he taught them mathematics, history, geog- 
raphy, and the elements of natural science. 
One of the busiest of men — a writer of mathe- 
matical text-books as well as a classroom in- 
structor — he made great sacrifices for the sake 
of their education. He would even get up at 
four in the morning to work on his text-books 
and to prepare his lectures, so that he might be 
sure of having freedom to instruct his little 
ones during the day. 

His two older sons, James and William, 
were the special objects of his care, particu- 
larly after their mother's death, which oc- 
curred when James was eight and William 

xxvi Editor s Introduction 

six. Thereafter he literally lived with these 
two boys, taking them to sleep in the same 
room with him, making them his companions 
in long walks, diligently drilling them in the 
rudiments of an all-round education. When 
he was eventually called from Belfast to as- 
sume the arduous tasks and more responsible 
position of professor of mathematics at Glas- 
gow University, he continued the home edu- 
cation of his sons, besides securing permission 
for them, at the ages of ten and eight, to at- 
tend his university lectures and the lectures of 
some of the other professors. 

In full agreement with his expectations, 
both boys showed an amazing mental develop- 
ment, while remaining healthy, vigorous, and 
active, full of fun and ever ready for a frolic. 
Like ordinary boys they delighted in playing 
with toys — with this difference, that their toys 
were in many instances scientific instruments. 
Thus, when barely nine years old, William 
made with his own hands little electrical ma- 
chines and Leyden jars, wherewith to give 
harmless and laughter-provoking shocks to 
his playmates. 

So great, indeed, were the intellectual at- 
tainments of the two brothers that when James 

Editor s Introduction xxvii 

was twelve and William ten they were ad- 
mitted as regular students at the university. 
Nor, children though they were, did they have 
any difficulty in keeping up with their studies. 
On the contrary, throughout their college ca- 
reers, and in several departments of knowl- 
edge, they stood at the very top of their classes. 
In his first winter's work, before he was eleven, 
William took two prizes in the "humanity" 
class. The next year he began the study of 
natural history and Greek, spent his Christ- 
mas vacation translating Lucian's "Dialogues 
of the Gods," and in May carried off the first 
prize for Greek. The year after that, as mem- 
bers of the junior mathematical class, he and 
his brother closed a brilliant session as first 
and second prizemen. Again they ranked first 
and second when members of the senior 
mathematical class; and, not content with this, 
William won an additional prize for profi- 
ciency in logic. The following year he won 
the class prize in astronomy, and a university 
medal for an essay, "On the Figure of the 
Earth," the manuscript of which is still in 
existence. He was then not sixteen, and 
among his classmates were men of twenty-five. 
As in Karl Witte's time there were not 

xxviii Editor's Introduction 

wanting prophets of evil, who, watching the 
achievements of the brothers, mournfully 
shook their heads. "It is monstrous, horrible, 
impossible," they protested. "These boys have 
been forced by their father beyond the limits 
of human endurance. No brain can stand it. 
They will die, or else they will go insane." 

What actually happened ? James Thomson, 
the older brother, lived to the age of seventy, 
and died leaving behind him the reputation 
of a really great authority on engineering. 
William, the younger, did not die until he 
was eighty-three, and became even more fa- 
mous. For, as Lord Kelvin of Largs, greatest 
of nineteenth-century physicists, he won a 
place in the annals of science fairly compara- 
ble with that held by Newton, Faraday, or 
any other of the intellectual giants who have 
concededly done most to advance mankind in 
knowledge of nature's laws. 

John Stuart Mill, the illustrious political 
economist, was similarly educated by a father 
who had strong convictions as to the impor- 
tance of habituating a child to the purposeful 
exercise of his mind. Mill himself says : 

I have no remembrance of the time when I began to 
learn Greek. I have been told that it was when I was 

Editor's Introduction xxix 

three years old. My earliest recollection on the subject 
is that of committing to memory what my father termed 
vocables, being lists of common Greek words, with their 
signification in English, which he wrote out for me on 
cards. Of grammar until some years later I learned no 
more than the inflections of nouns and verbs, but after a 
course of vocables proceeded at once to translation ; and I 
faintly remember going through "iEsop's Fables," the 
first Greek book which I read. The "Anabasis," which 
I remember better, was the second. I learned no Latin 
till my eighth year. At that time I had read, under my 
father's tuition, a number of Greek prose authors, among 
whom I remember the whole of Herodotus and of 
Xenophon's "Cyropaedia" and "Memorials of Socrates"; 
some of the lives of the philosophers by Diogenes 
Laertius; part of Lucian, and "Isocrates ad Demonicum" 
and "Ad Nicoclem." 1 

It is safe to say that nine out of every ten 
readers of Mill's account of the educational 
process to which his father subjected him, 
have been moved to pity for the child and con- 
demnation of the father. But Mill's after- 
life, especially when viewed in conjunction 
with Karl Witte's, Lord Kelvin's, and James 
Thomson's, assuredly vindicates his father's 
policy and emphasizes the unwisdom of the 
policy of mental neglect still in favor with 
most parents. The same, I have not the 
slightest doubt, may ultimately be said of the 

x ln John Stuart Mill's "Autobiography," Vol. I, p. 5. 

xxx Editor s Introduction 

more recent experiments of our own time and 
country, in which several American fathers 
and mothers have, like the elder Mill and the 
elder Thomson, applied in the education of 
their children much the same method as that 
devised by Witte, and with results in the way 
of unusual intellectual attainment closely par- 
alleling the results Witte obtained. 

One of these latter-day educational innova- 
tors is the present translator of Witte's book, 
Professor Leo Wiener of Harvard University. 
Another is the psychologist, Dr. Boris Sidis, 
from whose writings I have already quoted, 
and whose insistence on the importance of 
early home training is an immediate out- 
growth of his psychological researches. Dr. 
A. A. Berle, formerly pastor of Shawmut 
Congregational Church in Boston, now Pro- 
fessor of Applied Christianity in Tufts Col- 
lege, is a third; while a fourth is Mrs. J. B. 
Stoner, a resident of Pittsburgh. All four 
have acted on the theory that, if one only be- 
gins soon enough, it is just as easy to interest 
a child in things worth while as in activities 
which dissipate his energies and tend to the 
formation of loose and harmful habits of 
thought and conduct; and that study will 

Editor s Introduction xxxi 

never injure a child's mind as long as the child 
is really interested in what he is studying. 
They have therefore taken pains to give their 
children an environment rich in cultural sug- 
gestions, and have labored by precept and ex- 
ample to inspire in them a love for intellectual 
endeavor. In every case the children have 
responded to their efforts in an astonishing 

Professor Wiener's oldest boy, Norbert, de- 
veloped such intellectual power in early child- 
hood that he was able to enter Tufts College 
at ten, was graduated at fourteen, and, three 
months ago, at an age when most boys are only 
beginning their college careers, was granted 
the Ph.D. degree by Harvard University. 
Dr. Sidis's son, William, was admitted to the 
Brookline, Massachusetts, high school at 
eight, and three years ago, being even then a 
student in Harvard, amazed the members of 
that university's mathematical club by lec- 
turing to them on the fourth dimension. Dr. 
Berle's daughter, Lina, matriculated into 
Radcliffe College at fifteen, while her younger 
brother, Adolf, passed the entrance examina- 
tions for Harvard when only thirteen and a 
half; both brother and sister have since com- 

xxxii Editor's Introduction 

pleted their college courses with distinction, 
the boy in his sophomore year winning a prize 
for historical writing, and gaining his Bach- 
elor degree in three years instead of the cus- 
tomary four. Finally, Mrs. Stoner's daugh- 
ter, Winifred Sackville Stoner, at six was a 
frequent contributor to the poetry column of 
a newspaper in Evansville, Indiana, where she 
was then living with her parents; at seven 
published a volume of verse; and to-day, at 
eleven, besides being proficient in several lan- 
guages, is writing a series of stories for a news- 
paper syndicate. 

When it is added that the younger brothers 
and sisters of Norbert Wiener and of Lina and 
Adolf Berle have also been given the benefit 
of early home training along similar lines, 
and have similarly displayed exceptional 
mental ability, the difficulty of accounting 
for this result on the hypothesis of extraor- 
dinary innate talent becomes insuperable. 
As Dr. Berle, in discussing the education of 
his four children, has well said: 

If this result had been secured with one child, the 
usual plea of an "unusual child" might possibly be raised. 
But it is unthinkable that there should be four "prodigies" 
in one family! As a matter of fact, all such talk is 

Editor's Introduction xxxiii 

absurd. The difference is one of method, parental in- 
terest, and care. 1 

In not one case, moreover, can these 
American parents be justly accused of having 
"forced" their children, or of having by their 
educational methods done any injury to their 
children's health. The children are one and 
all healthy, sturdy, and strong, and each in 
his or her own way gets quite as much "fun" 
out of life as the ordinary child. I can say this 
from personal knowledge, for, with the ex- 
ception of Mrs. Stoner's little daughter, all 
of them have been more or less under my ob- 
servation for a number of years, and I have 
followed with interest the course of their de- 
velopment. Time alone, to be sure, can tell 
whether they will live to a good old age. But 
if they should die young or become insane, 
as some critics have dismally predicted, I am 
satisfied that neither misfortune could rightly 
be ascribed to their parents' treatment of 
them. My own opinion is that they have 
benefited physically as well as mentally from 
the way they have been brought up, and that 

*In "The School in the Home," pp. 14-15. Moffat, Yard 
& Co., New York, 1912. Dr. Berle's book is a particularly 
helpful one to read in connection with Witte's. 

xxxiv Editor's Introduction 

they are altogether likely to do as Karl Witte 
did — outlive those who so confidently proph- 
esy disaster for them. 

But, it may be objected, the development 
of intellectual power is, after all, not the only 
end of education; the development of moral 
strength is even more important. Undoubt- 
edly. And in this respect, readers of the 
present volume will very soon discover, the 
Wittean program for the upbringing of 
children is fully as helpful as with respect to 
their intellectual growth. For primarily, let 
me repeat, it was not Witte's object to make 
his son a "learned" man; what he wished to 
do was to make him an all-round man, strong 
morally as well as mentally and physically. 
If he believed that the boy's reasoning powers 
could not be properly developed unless he 
were trained from early infancy in the prin- 
ciples of sound reasoning, he was quite as 
firmly convinced that the process of moral 
development should likewise begin at the 
earliest possible moment. He believed this 
because he instinctively appreciated the force 
of a law on which scientific investigators are 
nowadays laying ever-increasing stress — the 
so-called law of psychological determinism. 

Editor's Introduction xxxv 

Stated briefly, this law, with which all par- 
ents ought to be acquainted, holds that every 
occurrence in the moral life of a man is in- 
dissolubly connected with, and determined 
by, previous occurrences, and especially by 
the occurrences and influences of early child- 
hood. Dr. Paul Dubois, one of the foremost 
exponents of the philosophy of determinism 

If you have the happiness to be a well-living man, take 
care not to attribute the credit of it to yourself. Re- 
member the favorable conditions in which you have lived, 
surrounded by relatives who loved you and set you a 
good example; do not forget the close friends who have 
taken you by the hand and led you away from the quag- 
mires of evil ; keep a grateful remembrance for all the 
teachers who have influenced you, the kind and intelli- 
gent schoolmaster, the devoted pastor; realize all these 
multiple influences which have made of you what you 
are. Then you will remember that such and such a 
culprit has not in his sad life met with these favorable 
conditions, that he had a drunken father or a foolish 
mother, and that he has lived without affection, exposed 
to all kinds of temptations. You will then take pity 
upon this disinherited man, whose mind has been nour- 
ished upon malformed mental images, begetting evil sen- 
timents, such as immoderate desire or social hatred. 1 

In the case of the spoiled child, equally 
with that of the neglected one, the determinist 

1 In "Reason and Sentiment," pp. 69-71. Funk & Wagnalls 
Co., New York, 1910. 

xxxvi Editor's Introduction 

sees the implanting of seeds certain soon or 
late to ripen into a harvest of moral weeds. 
And his cry, consequently, is for the begin- 
ning of moral education in the first years of 
childhood, so that by the time the child 
reaches school age he will have acquired a 
viewpoint and strength of character sufficient 
to enable him to resist the allurements of com- 
panions of perhaps vicious, or at all events 
morally weak, tendencies. 

In such full agreement was Witte with this 
modern determinist doctrine of the supreme 
importance of the early environment as a fac- 
tor in moral development, that he even laid 
down rules to be strictly observed by all in 
the household in their dealings with little 
Karl. The whole family life, in fact, was 
regulated with a view to "suggesting" to the 
child ideas which, taking root in the subcon- 
scious region of his mind, would tend to affect 
his moral outlook and exercise a lasting in- 
fluence on his conduct. Hasty words, dis- 
putes, discussion of unpleasant topics, all 
such things were studiously avoided. From 
Witte's statements it is also plain that in their 
relations with one another, as with their 
serving-maid and all who visited their home, 

Editor's Introduction xxxvii 

Witte and his wife displayed only those char- 
acteristics with which they wished to imbue 
their son. They were unfailingly genial, cour- 
teous, considerate, and sympathetic. Over and 
above all this, they set Karl a constant exam- 
ple of diligence, of that earnest activity which 
is itself a most forceful form of moral dis- 

It is also worth noting that in the walks 
and talks which were so conspicuous a feature 
of Witte's educational program, he took 
good care to cultivate in his boy the precious 
gift of imagination, on which the moral as 
well as the mental life of man so largely de- 
pends. 1 When, for instance, father and son 
went hand in hand along the roads and across 
the fields of Lochau, it was not alone rudi- 
ments of botany, physics, chemistry, natural 
history, and the like, that Witte taught Karl; 
he deftly led him to appreciate the beauty 
and mystery inherent in the workings of na- 

1 This important measure in the education of the child is 
ably discussed in Dr. Berle's book; also in Mr. Ernest Hamlin 
Abbott's stimulating little volume, "On the Training of Par- 
ents." Houghton, Mifflin Co., Boston, 1908. In this connec- 
tion it might also be said that parents will find much helpful 
advice on the subject of moral education in President William 
De Witt Hyde's "The Quest of the Best." Thomas Y. Crowell 
Co., New York, 1913. 

xxxviii Editor's Introduction 

ture, led him to feel that there was always 
something beyond and transcending the out- 
ward actualities. When he told him stories 
of the ancient world, or showed him pictures 
of historic episodes, it was not simply with a 
view to interesting him in the study of history. 
The pathos, the grandeur, the tragedy, the 
heroism, or whatever it might be, exemplified 
in the particular story or picture, was also 
brought out clearly. So, likewise, in famil- 
iarizing him with the quiet life of Lochau 
itself, in introducing him to its mills, its 
shops, its cottage homes and their hum- 
ble dwellers, Witte constantly endeavored to 
make his son perceive, beneath the sordid and 
petty and sometimes repellent externals, 
phases which, by appealing to his kindled 
imagination, would arouse sentiments of true 

"Remember, dear Karl," he would say, in 
effect, "these poor people have not had the 
advantages enjoyed by you. If they do not 
speak correctly, if they do not always behave 
as they ought, it is because they have not been 
taught properly in their youth. You must 
not do as they do, but neither must you con- 
demn them. On the contrary, remember that 

Editor s Introduction xxxix 

they are God's children like yourself, and that 
in spite of their shortcomings they are pre- 
cious to Him." 

In short, by these and other measures which 
the reader will find described in his book, 
Witte sought to establish in his son those 
moral traits which the world unites in regard- 
ing as most desirable. His success is evinced 
by the nobility of that son's entire life — a life 
which, at its close, drew from one who knew 
Karl Witte well this impressive tribute: 

"He lived in Halle for nearly fifty years, 
a loved man and honored teacher, a helpful 
and valued member of the professorial staff, 
a true patriot who had boldly stood at the 
head of the Prussenverein in the time of the 
Revolution, a loyal Conservative, a devout 
Christian and elder of the church, a scholar 
overwhelmed with honors and distinctions, a 
tender husband and father, till a gentle death 
closed his rich and singularly happy life on 
March 6, 1883." 

So, too, the parents who have since Witte's 
day made trial of the virtues of early home 
training, have found their children growing 
in moral strength exactly in proportion as 
care has been taken to surround them, as 

xl Editor's Introduction 

Witte did his son Karl, with enlightening and 
ennobling influences. Always the outcome is 
the same — the vindication of a method which 
cannot too soon be adopted by all parents. 

Nor does this mean, as might be supposed, 
that in order to make sure of results, parents 
will have to give the greater portion of their 
time to their children's education. An hour 
or so a day is all that will be necessary in the 
way of formal instruction. What parents will 
have to do, however, is so to regulate their 
whole lives that the indirect, the unconscious 
instruction which their children will absorb 
from them will make for mental and moral 
betterment. Always they will have to bear 
firmly in mind that, as wise old Witte used 
to say, "Teaching begins, but example ac- 

H. Addington Bruce. 

Marlboro, New Hampshire, 
September, 1913. 



For Whom this Book is Written 

People may think that I am writing espe- 
cially for teachers and educators proper, but 
that is not the case. Since the latter as a rule 
consider themselves, for good reasons or no 
reasons at all, to be my opponents, I cannot 
be writing for them in particular. Their ob- 
jections to me are that I have not done things 
the way they do them, — which is bad enough, 
— and that at times I have done the very op- 
posite from what they do, — which is much 
worse! Then, the public have been unkind 
enough to say: "If Witte did that with his son, 
and at the same time assures us that equally 
good results may be obtained in the case of 
every child not directly neglected by Nature, 
why do not our schoolmasters accomplish the 
same?" Nothing could be more unjust than 
this request, and I have made vain endeavors 


2 The Education of Karl Witte 

to stop it. Meanwhile the offensive accusa- 
tions against the honest teachers make them 
impatient with me, who — truly against my 
will — am the cause of these accusations. 

My whole work is intended to prove to the 
intelligent person that the schoolmaster, no 
matter how well endowed with knowledge 
and the ability to teach, is, in spite of his best 
wishes, unable to accomplish anything, if 
others have previously worked against him, 
or still continue to work against him. 

Teachers and educators, for the above 
causes, are generally hostile toward me, at 
least so long as they have not become ac- 
quainted with me or have not in some way, 
from me or from others, learned of my con- 

For these I write only in so far as they are 
also fathers and mothers who sincerely love 
their children, or the children entrusted to 
them, and out of their tender love for them 
have resolved to look closer at the educational 
experiment of a man who more than once has 
given them unpleasant moments. 

If they do that, I shall be writing for them, 
as for all well-meaning parents who wish to 
get the best results for their children's bodies, 

For Whom this Book is Written 3 

minds, and souls. Many parents have atten- 
tively followed my methods of education, 
have in writing expressed their sympathy for 
me, or have treated me and mine with high 
favor. The proofs of their noble well-wish- 
ings have frequently touched me to tears. I 
may, nay s I must, say that they have often 
assisted me, as occasionally will appear in the 
course of my writing. My warm thanks and 
the thanks of my family will follow them to 
their graves. 

I have been urgently asked by a great num- 
ber of them to write in a simple manner, just 
as at their request I have been telling them 
about it, an easy, simple story for the world 
at large, as w T ell as for them. As they had 
cleared away all the reasonable objections 
which I could bring forward, I was obliged 
to give them my word of honor that some 
day I would do so. 

One of my best-founded objections was this, 
that some malicious persons would say, "Is 
there any real need of such a book?" To these 
my friends answered, "Even so! If others do 
not want it, we demand it of you, — write it 
just for us!" 

And so I keep my word. I know full well 

4 The Education of Karl Witte 

that others will not succeed exactly as I have, 
and I believe that it is not necessary for all 
children to be educated just like my son. But 
I am convinced that much of what I have 
done may be repeated, and that an intelligent 
application of my method will be of no small 

Pestalozzi became interested in me at a 
very early time, and with his clear vision and 
warm, unprejudiced mind naturally foresaw 
the plant, and even the fruit, while it still was 
in its tender bud, and so, while but very few 
paid any attention to what I was doing, ex- 
pressed himself about it with great sympathy 
and even emphasis. Here are his words: 

Dear Friend: 

Let me tell you once more, while you are still in our 
neighborhood, how much I am interested in the method 
of education which you are applying to your child, and 
how much I find our pedagogical ideas essentially the 
same. Let me say more than that: I have more than 
once been afraid that the rubric of my form, number 
and word, like the external form of my elementary books, 
at first sight seems to lead far away from the simple 
course of artless Nature and its best adherents, from 
the plain forms of common sense. However, this is cer- 
tainly only an appearance, for in the execution our activ- 
ity universally and most surely resembles every educa- 
tional method in which the experiences of a father capa- 

For Whom this Book is Written 5 

ble of strict observation and the heart of a truly loving 
mother find their pure expression. What of it, if this 
does not appear in the dead tables and heaping numer- 
ical series? It cannot appear there! But if Kruesi, 
guided by these forms, becomes all child to the child's 
mind, and the child finds himself in every word of 
Kruesi and, for the sake of his educational method, must 
find himself there, even as he must find himself in the 
simplest word of his mother, whose sense has become 
clear to him through a thousandfold experience, — then 
our real activity is indeed something quite different from 
what may seem from deceptive appearances. It is this, 
my friend, that you have seen better than any one else, 
even because you have been working essentially in the 
same spirit. You did not know it, but at the base of 
your activity lies the same matured natural feeling out 
of which, after endless seeking, my pedagogical forms 
have evolved. 

My friend! Your work is very important. At this 
time we need more than anything else the proving of the 
work of education by matured experiences, and such ex- 
periences are calculated to rectify any views that are 
held in regard to my method. Under these circum- 
stances you, my friend, must feel how important it is 
for me that you should continue the circle of your edu- 
cational experiences and, if possible, should expand it. 
You have been invited to take up this career, inde- 
pendently from my wishes. Permit me, therefore, to add 
my wishes to those of your nearest friends, and urgently 
to ask you not to reject any opportunity that may offer 
itself to you. Much may be done by men like you, who 
with their astuteness grasp everything that presents itself 
to their minds, and who are able consistently to act in 
conformity with what they thus have abstracted, as agree- 

6 The Education of Karl Witte 

ing both with the essence of human nature and the cir- 
cumstances of human situations. I consciously count you 
among men of this sort, and at all events rejoice in ad- 
vance at the chance of hearing from you about the prog- 
ress of your experiences with the sincerity and definite- 
ness that characterized you during the pleasant hours 
which I passed with you in discussing this subject. 

May your journey across our mountains be happy, and 
may you be assured of the continuance of my sincere 
and lasting attachment. 

Your loving friend, 

August, 1804. 

He has remained in this opinion for four- 
teen years, and has even lately urged me in 
private to make the story of my son's educa- 
tion as detailed and universal as possible. In 
this he was joined by his worthy friends and 
by the well-known French savant, Julien of 
Paris. They thoroughly met all my objec- 
tions, which chiefly arose from timidity, and 
Pestalozzi wrote to me on the very day of my 
departure from Yverdon as follows: 

My dear Mr. Witte: 

You, no doubt, remember the pedagogical conversation 
which we had fourteen years ago at Buchsee. You then 
gave us hope that, in accordance with your peculiar prin- 
ciples, you would carry your son's education much far- 
ther than is usual. Now the excellent progress made 

For Whom this Book is Written 7 

by him has far surpassed what you then dared to hope 
and utter. 

The question arises, in how much has this progress 
been produced by your method of education, or been 
induced by it? The question arises, whether his progress 
is the direct result of his superior talent, and to what 
extent it is the result of pedagogical principles and means 
which, applied in the case of other children, would pro- 
duce at least approximately similar results. 

My dear Mr. Witte, you ought to put the friends of 
education in a position to judge with some degree of 
certainty, by giving them a detailed account, which would 
definitely enter into all the particulars, of how you have 
led your son from one step to another. There can be 
no doubt of your son's superior powers. But in how far 
your pedagogical skill seized these powers with psycho- 
logical certainty and thus caused their rapid evolution, 
that can be made clear only by a very circumstantial 
story of what is peculiar and distinguishing in your 
method. It is important that this be done, and it is 
certainly the pleasantest business to which you may de- 
vote yourself. 

Goodby, and may you be assured of the extreme 
consideration with which I have the honor to call 

Your most humble servant and friend, 


Yverdon, September 4, 1817. 


Was my Son Born with Extraordinary 

I HAVE been told so an endless number of 
times, and should let it rest at that, for it is 
exceedingly pleasant to be able to say that one 
has been particularly favored by the Deity, 
or that one possesses a gift that enables him to 
do what nobody else can do. But to tell the 
truth this is not the case. 

There are more than a thousand persons to 
whom I have denied it, and I must say that 
most of my friends and acquaintances were 
of this opinion. Only one man, Pastor Glau- 
bitz, who had known me intimately in my 
childhood and who from 1788 to his death — 
that is, for a period of more than twenty years 
— had been a close friend of mine, used to 

"I am convinced that Karl has no extraor- 
dinary aptitudes, and I am not one of those 
who marvel at his progress as at a miracle. 
On the contrary. I tell myself, you, and all 


Extraordinary Aptitudes 9 

who wish to hear it, that his aptitudes are 
only mediocre, but that his progress could 
not help being what it is, and the results of 
your education will in time appear even more 
brilliant. I know your educational plans and 
your way of doing things. They must suc- 
ceed, unless God wants to hinder them." 

Shortly before the birth of my son there 
were in the learned schools of Magdeburg 
(Kloster Liebenfrauen, Kloster Bergen and 
the Domschule) a number of young instruct- 
ors of great ability. Other young men had 
lately taken positions as preachers in the 
neighborhood, and stood in friendly relations 
with these institutions. They all formed a fine 
circle which zealously occupied itself with 
man's most exalted business, that of his edu- 
cation. My friend Glaubitz had joined it, 
and through him I had been introduced to its 
meetings every time I could be there. 

The conversation once turned upon this, 
that teachers and educators with their best 
wills at times could not accomplish anything, 
whereas, in my opinion, too much stress was 
put on man's natural aptitudes. In accord- 
ance with my observations, I was obliged to 
contradict them. I spoke as follows: 

io The Education of Karl Witte 

"The natural aptitudes have less to do with 
it than the child's education in his first five or 
six years. Of course, there is a difference in 
regard to the aptitudes, but, as a rule, that is, 
with such as most men are born with, infi- 
nitely more depends upon education than is 
usually believed." 

To have a great authority on my side, I 
quoted, when pushed to it, the statement of 
Helvetius, "Chaque homme communement 
bien organise peut devenir grand homme, 
suppose qu'il soit eleve comme il faut." 
Everybody was against me. When Mr. 
Schrader went home with Glaubitz and me, 
we still discussed the matter, and I repeated 
what I had said more than once in the meet- 
ing, where I was outvoted: 

"Now I naturally must keep quiet, for there 
are thirteen or fourteen of you against me. 
But I hope to prove to you in fact that I am 
right. If God grants me a son, and if he, in 
your own opinion, is not to be called stupid, — 
which Heaven forfend, — I have long ago de- 
cided to educate him to be a superior man, 
without knowing in advance what his apti- 
tudes may be." 

They had taken me at my word in the meet- 

Extraordinary Aptitudes 1 1 

ing, and Schrader did the same now. Glau- 
bitz had previously only indicated that he 
was not averse from my views. Now he at- 
tempted to convince Schrader that I would 
certainly keep my promise. But the latter, 
like all his friends, asserted that such a thing 
was impossible. 

Shortly afterward Schrader learned from 
Glaubitz that a son had been born to my wife. 
He informed his friends of the fact, and they 
all watched me and my boy. Every time I 
came to their part of the country or Glaubitz 
came to see me, I was asked of the state of 
affairs, and heads wagged suspiciously when- 
ever he or I gave hopes of fulfilling my old 

When Karl was four or five years old, I 
took him to Klein-Ottersleben. Mr. Schra- 
der saw him and became very fond of him. 
Although he felt that the boy had no extraor- 
dinary aptitudes, he was sure that I should 
succeed in making much of him. Thus it 
went on until the year 1810. With every suc- 
ceeding year Schrader convinced himself 
more and more that I was solving my prob- 
lem, and in the latter year he so expressed 
himself in writing to me. 

12 The Education of Karl Witte 

The letter is the more striking and remark- 
able since his personal observation and the in- 
formation received from his and my intimate 
friends compelled him to admit that what I 
had promised and he had doubted had ac- 
tually taken place, although he none the less 
could not make up his mind entirely to give 
up his prejudices and that of his friends. He 
remained to some extent my opponent. It, 
therefore, does his intellect and heart honor 
when he enthusiastically admits what has 
taken place, although he previously consid- 
ered such a thing to be impossible. Here are 
his own words. 

Langenweddingen, June 3, 1810. 
Honored Friend: 

You have kept your word! Your Karl has become 
what you promised before his birth he would become, 
nay, he has done even better. When, ten years ago, you 
declared to me ecstatically in the presence of our de- 
ceased friend Glaubitz that you were hoping soon to be 
a father and that you fervently wished to be the father 
of a healthy son, you added the unforgettable words, 
"If my son will be healthily organized, I am determined 
to educate him to be a superior man." 

I then contradicted you, saying that the success of 
your favorite plan did not depend alone on the health 
of the boy you were expecting, but more especially on 
his natural aptitudes. To this you replied: "Chaque 

Extraordinary Aptitudes 13 

homme communement bien organise peut devenir grand 
homme, suppose qu'il soit eleve comme il faut." I con- 
tinued to express my doubts, but Glaubitz assured me 
that you had already transformed a boy in Switzerland 
in a short time into a more than common man, although 
he had been given up by his former educators as almost 
stupid. I then promised you that I would delay my 
judgment until your boy should some day appear him- 
self and speak for or against your assertion. Here he 
is, your boy. I see him in manly maturity, with child- 
like innocence and goodness in a rare union, — a charming 
picture of ennobled humanity ! O lead me into a room 
filled with such men, and I shall deem myself to be re- 
moved from earth and in company of higher spirits! 

Yes, my friend ! You have not merely kept your word, 
you have accomplished more than you had promised. I 
feel myself under obligation to declare so in writing, in 
order to do you due justice. However, brilliant as the suc- 
cess of your endeavors has been, you will not be able to 
convince the pedagogues of the truth of your fundamen- 
tal theory. They will say on all sides, "How happy is 
the father to whom such a son was born!" They will 
ascribe the boy's advantages more to the nature and apti- 
tudes of the child, than to his father's art and deserts. 
And, to tell you frankly, I, too, am one of those who 
say: "If Karl had not been fortunately organized, he 
would not have become that which he now is." I know 
your by no means small deserts in regard to him. I 
know your power, your rare patience, the firm persistency 
with which you pursue your purpose. I know that this 
boy was the point around which all your previous life 
with all its activity has gyrated; that you have known 
how to bring everything, speech and silence, coming and 
going, work and rest, everything that surrounds the boy, 

14 The Education of Karl Witte 

into nearer or more remote relations to him and to your 
purpose; that you have for years labored untiringly, un- 
interruptedly, with ever-constant powers and vivacity. 
Besides, I know the mighty power which you exert with 
your exceptional persistency on all those on whom you 
wish to exert it, — and yet, in spite of all that, I cannot 
disagree with those pedagogues. 

It is not only difficult, but, indeed, entirely impossible 
to determine the relative part played by Nature and art 
in the education of man, because during the process of 
education they stand in interrelation with each other. 
You will forever want proof by which to make it clear 
that you have educated a healthy, but not favorably or 
fortunately organized, boy by means of the art of treat- 
ment alone to become a superior man. None the less 
your experiment will in every respect remain remarkable 
and important for pedagogy, and a detailed account of 
your method will be a valuable gift to the public. Nat- 
urally it will take a Witte to carry this method into 
execution, and so I warrant you that you will have 
few imitators. 


Preacher at Langenweddingen near Magdeburg. 


Did my Educational Work Proceed 

The way I instructed and educated my son 
must not only have had a good beginning, but 
must also have proceeded successfully, since 
the attention of the cultured, and even the ac- 
tive participation of different, nay, mutually 
hostile, governments have now for more than 
ten years been bestowed upon me. 

When my son first became talked about, in 
his eighth year, we were living in a village, 
Lochau, near Halle, in surroundings which 
certainly were not calculated in themselves to 
direct the attention of the public upon a child. 
Such a thing may take place more easily in 
a city, especially a large city. 

Besides, Karl's unusual education fell into 
a period when Europe was shaken in its very 
foundation, and when our country, Prussia, 
was almost crushed. I am speaking of the 
years 1807 and 1808. People had then other 
subjects for entertainment. Great, terrible oc- 


1 6 The Education of Karl Witte 

currences, anxieties, hopes, longings for help, 
disappointments, — only such things appeared 
remarkable. Trifles were overlooked. 

The attainments of a child must have been 
very considerable, they must have been ex- 
traordinary, if they were to pass through 
these epochal events, find a place for them- 
selves, and become established. And this they 
have done. 

That point of time was particularly unfa- 
vorable, for there was then a distinct prejudice 
against early maturity of learning. Men like 
Salzmann, Campe, Trapp, had for a long 
time spoken against it with emphasis and had 
objectively pointed out the uselessness and 
harm of earlier examples, and had stigma- 
tized them as products of "hot-house educa- 

As I myself considered it an honor to have 
been their disciple, I am willing to admit that 
I shared their opinion in this very matter, 
and that I had my misgivings when I saw 
something taking place under my guidance 
of which I was afraid. 

Consequently the first news of it in the pub- 
lic papers (the letter of an unknown person 
in the Hamburger Correspondent giving an 

My Educational Work 17 

exact account of my son's public and private 
examination in Merseburg) was considered 
untrue and senseless. A Danish savant even 
denied the whole fact and believed that he 
must deny it from inner causes. That which 
seemed incredible, however, soon gained cre- 
dence, when repeated examinations drew 
forth the many testimonials, personally signed 
by such men as Schuetz, Tieftrunk, Caesar, 
Bek, Mahlmann, Rost, and a mass of excel- 
lent men, to which learned societies and uni- 
versities were soon added. Soon voices rose 
on all sides for the good cause, and it was ac- 
cepted as an established fact. 

The particular period was also most unfa- 
vorable, because the war and its sad conse- 
quences had unsettled everything. Prussia 
seemed forever destroyed. Its inhabitants 
were daily drained more and more, and I was 
living at the extreme end of the monarchy, 
for Lochau was on all sides surrounded by 
Saxony. There could be no thought of sup- 
port, and yet I had to leave the village, if 
Karl was not to stagnate, that is, to go back. 

I could not count on Prussia. France 
wanted to get money, not to give it, while 
Saxony could hardly have the wish to do 

1 8 The Education of Karl Witte 

something, since I in no way stood in physical 
need. I had a good parish and the written 
assurance of a still better one to come. I 
lived quite comfortably and enjoyed with my 
family, — even in Leipsic, — all the pleasures 
of my station of life. 

Meanwhile my son's education was still in 
its germ. Countless people feared evil con- 
sequences. "In his tenth or twelfth year the 
poor child will die or waste away!" they fre- 
quently said, in a truly anxious manner. 

Nevertheless, the city and the university of 
Leipsic united in a very surprising way, and 
by a considerable stipend for my son and very 
kind and advantageous offers for me and my 
wife made it possible for me to give up my 
parish and to make up my mind to go to live 
in Leipsic. Every sensible person will sur- 
mise that this was not done without most care- 
ful investigations and repeated tests of my 

The French Westphalian government pro- 
ceeded in the same manner. It examined my 
son repeatedly and with suspicion, but ended 
by offering me monetary support, which was 
regularly paid out to me, even on the day 
when the Russians were firing on Kassel. 

My Educational Work 19 

When Westphalia collapsed, my patrons 
and friends took care of me and my son, for 
Prussia, my fatherland, which for seven years 
had methodically been sucked dry and ex- 
hausted, was in the midst of a doubtful war, 
while Hanover, Brunswick, and Hesse hast- 
ened to make it known that every stranger 
from another state should repair home, and 
violently rejected any demands made upon 
them on the basis of Westphalian recom- 
mendations. Yet all three states promptly 
and freely paid to me what I asked of them 
on the basis of those recommendations, after 
having, most naturally and reasonably, first 
convinced themselves that the money, of 
which they were very much in need, was well 
spent in my case. 

Then many Prussians of the upper class 
encouraged me to turn to our monarch. The 
times being so unpropitious, I did not dare do 
so for a long while. Finally, having been 
urged anew, I made a cautious inquiry, and 
I received a most magnanimous and encour- 
aging answer. Indeed, after a closer investi- 
gation of the matter, I was granted more than 
I had dared to ask. How gracious the proofs 
of royal attention and favor have been, which 

20 The Education of Karl Witte 

my son and I have for the last two years en- 
joyed here in Berlin! 

Since all this has been maintained without 
interruption for the period of ten years, since 
the most different, and mutually opposed 
men, savants and statesmen, even monarchs, 
have united for prompt and active coopera- 
tion, the cause for which such sacrifices have 
sympathetically been made must be good and 
must have succeeded. 

A mass of written congratulations and ex- 
pressions of heartfelt interest, which came 
chiefly from men whom I did not personally 
know, a mass of personal proofs of kindness, 
well-wishing, respect, and sincere sympathy, 
attest the fact that my undertaking was con- 
tinuously successful. It has won for itself the 
noble ones of our own land and other coun- 
tries, or my eyes, ears, senses, and intellect 
must have egregiously deceived me. 


Is my Son's Education Finished? 

So far as I am concerned, it is. I have long 
withstood those who asserted that it was fin- 
ished, but now I must admit it is. When he 
was eleven years old, several professors at 
Goettingen thought that it was not necessary 
for me any longer to accompany my son to his 
lectures, that he behaved perfectly well, was 
attentive, made the proper notes, and I, there- 
fore, could spare myself the trouble. None 
the less I used to go with him, made all the 
preparations for the lectures and all the re- 
views together with him. Later, at Goettin- 
gen and at Heidelberg, I stopped it all, but 
I proceeded very slowly and imperceptibly, 
before leaving him entirely to his own 

Only after he had made his appearance 
several times as an author in difficult matters, 
evoking respect and applause, only after he 
had received honors, such as are usually be- 


22 The Education of Karl Witte 

stowed upon a real savant of advanced years, 
only after Our Majesty, the King, and his 
minister considered him worthy to undertake 
a two-years' scientific journey at the expense 
of the state, and that he, then sixteen years 
old, was fully able to take care of himself, — 
did I make up my mind to consider his edu- 
cation finished so far as I was concerned, and 
resolved at last seriously to consider my own 

However, not to be too rash and do things 
prematurely, of which I had constantly been 
in fear, I wrote to our honored monarch that 
from considerations which I adduced I 
should like to keep my son another year with 
me, in order that he might have an opportu- 
nity to prepare himself as thoroughly for this 
distinguished mission as he had formerly pre- 
pared himself for every important change in 
his intellectual life. His Majesty gave the 
necessary consent with a readiness and lib- 
erality which throw a bright light both on 
the correct view and on the noble heart of the 
monarch. It was only then that, with the ap- 
proval of my patrons and friends, I left the 
house and city in which my son was living. 

I have been away from him for seventeen 

Is my Son's Education Finished? 23 

months, and during that time I saw him only 
once in Vienna on his journey to Switzerland 
and Italy. 

Not to push him out into the world all at 
once, while he was still so young, and in order 
not to make the change from the considerate 
care of both parents to the absolute self-de- 
pendence among strangers too sudden, I left 
him during my absence with his mother and 
in the circle of noble friends, who fortunately 
belonged to all classes of society and to all 
ages, and recommended to him that in the 
proper season he should at my expense take 
trips to Leipsic and Dresden and to their 
charming surroundings, Freiburg, Chemnitz, 
Naumburg, Jena, Weimar, Erfurth, Gotha, 
Liebenstein, Eisenach, Kassel, Goettingen, 
Brunswick, Magdeburg, Salzwedel, etc., 
should inspect all kinds of works of nature 
and of art, and should make use of libraries 
and gain personal acquaintance with scholars, 
— in short, should practically prepare him- 
self for his great journey, and then should in 
four or five months return to his mother in 
Berlin, in order once more to begin and con- 
tinue the theoretical preparation. All that 
he did advantageously to himself, and in May 

24 The Education of Karl Witte 

of this year he actually started on his greater 
journey. After having been with him in 
Vienna for two months, I forever told him 
goodby, and he is now living beyond the Alps. 
I obviously can no longer supervise him. He 
stands alone, in the care of God arid his own 
conscience. I must, therefore, assume that his 
education is completed, in so far as I am 

Of course, that education which we all re- 
ceive until our death, that perfection which 
we obtain through the circumstances of life, 
our vicissitudes, our acquaintances, our con- 
verse with the living and the dead, — that edu- 
cation has naturally not been finished and 
cannot be finished. 

When I started on my journey of seventeen 
months, he was bodily and spiritually in per- 
fect health, sound and joyful, and worked 
with pleasure and ease. He had never been 
ill, and had not even had the diseases of 


Every Ordinarily Organized Child may 

Become a Superior Man, if He is 

Properly Educated 

This is a proposition which I maintained 
before a large company of educators at 
Magdeburg, before my son was born, and 
which I have since repeatedly defended. To 
speak with Helvetius, "Every ordinarily or- 
ganized child may become a superior man, 
if only he is excellently educated." 

I know very well that the keys of a piano 
that have no strings cannot respond, no matter 
how skilful the player may be. I just as cer- 
tainly know that an expert can easily remedy 
a great dissonance and elicit an agreeable 
melody from an instrument that before sound- 
ed wretchedly. The particular instrument 
may not have that perfect structure that dis- 
tinguishes some other instrument, but if the 
first is properly tuned, while the second be- 
comes more out of order every moment, a 


26 The Education of Karl Witte 

piece of music played on the first will be more 
agreeable to the ear than one played on the 

To speak without similes. If a child's body 
or mind lacks an organ, it will be impossible 
even for the greatest educator on earth to 
bring out that which it is the property of that 
organ to develop. But if all the organs are 
present, some of them, however, in a weaker 
degree and without the proper perfection, 
and in their active power, be it of a corporal 
or spiritual nature, are somewhat behind the 
others, — the clear-sighted educator, but only 
such, may be able by degrees completely to 
overcome these deficiencies, or, at least, to pro- 
duce results which would startle the man of 
reason who has known the organ in its former 
state and now becomes aware of the greatly 
improved results. 

Such an educator will be able to raise a 
child of mediocre organization by means of 
a very careful treatment to a degree of edu- 
cation which excellently organized children, 
under a careless and improper method of edu- 
cation, frequently do not attain. Hence it 
must, as a rule, turn out to be true that a child 
of mediocre organization who has been edu- 

Every Child may Become Superior 27 

cated with much love, cleverness, attention, 
and zeal by a very skillful and cautious 
educator may, in the realm of beings, finally 
occupy a higher position than a highly or- 
ganized child who has been carelessly and 
badly educated by thoughtless and inexperi- 
enced educators. On the other hand, it must 
be self-evident that the latter could and must 
have risen much higher if it had been treated 
as wisely and as carefully as the first. And 
it is equally clear that this too frequently fails 
to happen in our imperfect world, that, in- 
deed, it cannot happen under the existing cir- 
cumstances. It is therefore obvious that many 
well organized children go backward, and 
become unreasoning, ignorant, and even bad, 
while some ordinarily organized children 
through favorable circumstances rise to a 
point reached but by few mortals. 

What a most fortunately organized man 
may become under the most appropriate edu- 
cation and most favorable circumstances, that, 
I assert, we do not know at all, for our Alex- 
anders, Caesars, Charlemagnes, Henrys, Fred- 
ericks, had their weak, or, more correctly, 
their bad sides. Consequently they came very 
much short of that ideal which is possible even 

28 The Education of Karl Witte 

in our imperfect world. I am convinced that 
an exceptionally well-educated man would be 
greater, stronger, healthier, more beautiful, 
gentler, more courageous, more magnani- 
mous, nobler, braver, wiser, wittier, more 
earnest, more learned, sensible, moderate, re- 
strained (of course, everything in its right 
place), — in short, that he would be a man 
who would stand incomparably nearer to the 
higher beings than we do. 

If we were a hundred years advanced in the 
art of education, my proposition would, per- 
haps, be wrong. Perhaps it would not be, for 
it would still be a question whether all the 
means for awakening and educating all the 
powers that are latent in every child had been 
found and had become a common property, 
and whether there were many parents and 
educators who had conscientiously used every 
opportunity for the advancement of those 
under their charge from their cradle to their 
completed education. Only then would it be 
possible to assert that a father of an ordinar- 
ily organized child could not accomplish 
anything more for him than ten other fathers 
of very favorably organized children did for 
their own, and so could not advance his son 

Every Child may Become Superior 29 

any farther, and had, on the contrary, to let 
him fall behind the others. 

But this is not the case now. We are still 
very far from being able to assert that others 
could not accomplish still more. There will 
hardly be a sensible, especially an experi- 
enced, man who will not, in applying a sys- 
tem of education, discover that he has com- 
mitted some blunders which have been in- 
jurious to his pupil and have visibly kept him 
from becoming what he otherwise might have 
turned out to be. 

If, now, it is quite certain that our usual 
method of education and instruction is still 
far behind that which an individual man may 
accomplish, because he exerts all his powers 
in the desire to obtain results, — then it is quite 
comprehensible that such a man would be 
able to promote the lesser aptitudes better 
than the greater aptitudes are generally pro- 
moted at present: that he, therefore, may be 
able to educate a child with ordinary organ- 
ization so as to become a superior man. 

But since my proposition, of which I am 
as convinced as of my existence, has been uni- 
versally attacked, although a very few per- 
sons, without my aid, have grasped it cor- 

30 The Education of Karl Witte 

rectly and put it in the clearest light, I am 
constrained to believe that people have gen- 
erally misunderstood it, albeit claiming to 
understand it, and, as usual, have brought for- 
ward a mass of objections which frequently 
destroy one another and frequently are so 
weak that upon closer examination they col- 
lapse as untenable. 

So I will try to explain it at greater length, 
by reproducing as faithfully as possible one 
of the many conversations I have in the last 
twenty-five years had upon the subject. 

Mr. A. "No, my friend, you cannot con- 
vince me of it. For from this it would fol- 
low that all men are born with equal apti- 
tudes, — and who could assume such a thing? 
The diversity of human aptitudes is self- 

I. "To me also. But you are mistaken in 
assuming that your conclusion actually fol- 
lowed from my proposition." 

He. "What? You mean to say that my 
conclusion is wrong? Is it not clear that all 
children must have equal aptitudes, if I can 
educate every one of them to be a superior 

I. "In the first place, I did not say that 

Every Child may Become Superior 31 

you could do so with every child, for I know- 
that there are cretins, who we also call human 
beings; I know very well that the gradation 
from these to the man who comes into the 
world with the highest possible perfection of 
organization is enormous ; I know that we are 
unable to count all the rounds of such a 

He. "You mean to say that this was not 
your idea? Then I must have misunderstood 
you very much." 

I. "That you have, for I keep saying 'from 
every healthily organized child,' and that 
makes a great difference." 

He. "I do not find it so, or I do not un- 
derstand you." 

I. "The latter may easily be the case. So 
I will try to make myself clearer. I assume 
with you that men's aptitudes are very differ- 
ent, that, if we consider all their bodily, men- 
tal, and moral aptitudes singly and in their 
interactions, we truly may say that their di- 
versities cannot be counted. But for our pur- 
poses we must consider them capable of men- 
suration. Let us, therefore, assume a diver- 
sity grading from one to one hundred. The 
above-mentioned cretin may be considered as 

32 The Education of Karl Witte 

having an aptitude of one, while the best- 
organized man possesses one of one hundred. 
Then an ordinarily organized child may be 
regarded as having an aptitude of " 

He. "Fifty. That is clear. But of what 
good is that?" 

I. "You will soon hear. So I assume that 
many children come into the world with apti- 
tudes graded as fifty, for what is most ordi- 
nary is most frequent. Thus your son, mine, 
and the son of uncountable others would be- 
long to this number." 

He. "Not at all. I will admit this in the 
case of my son, but not of yours." 

I. "Very well. To please you, I will for 
the present say nothing about it. But, let us 
proceed! Think of ten or a dozen children 
whose aptitudes are fifty, but in various rela- 
tions. Let two of them be brought up in the 
country, entirely without any instruction; two 
others, with not much more instruction, in 
the city, employed from earliest childhood as 
apprentices in a factory; two of them edu- 
cated in a poor school, two in a better school ; 
two others, carefully and well brought up in 
the family circle; finally, two who have been 
wrongly educated at home. You will easily 

Every Child may Become Superior 33 

perceive that, if the aptitudes are everything 
and education can do but little or nothing at 
all, all these ten or twelve children should 
at the end of their education be at the same 
level, while one of these may become prince 
or minister, another a scholar, a third a mer- 
chant, a ninth a beggar, and a tenth a robber. 
But do you believe that all ten would be 
standing on the same level of human perfec- 

He. "Naturally not. For one will have 
learned much, another — little, a third — noth- 
ing at all ; hence one will become an excellent 
man, another — an ordinary, a third — a bad 

I. "So you observe from this example how 
much education may do. But let us over- 
look this too. Will their natural aptitudes, 
which originally were absolutely the same, 
still be absolutely the same after the course 
of twenty years?" 

He. "What do you mean?" 

I. "I mean, for example, will all ten boys 
at their twentieth year be possessed of the 
same corporal strength?" 

He. "How could this be possible? We are 
speaking only of what is ordinary, of the nat- 

34 The Education of Karl Witte 

ural, as they call it. Obviously the son of 
the robber, the day-laborer, and the peasant 
will, as a rule, have surprisingly greater bod- 
ily strength than the son of the artist, the 
scholar, and the minister." 

I. "Very well! But why?" 

He. "That is clear. Because the first three 
have naturally been developing their bodily 
strength, and in their particular situations 
could not help developing it. In the case of 
the other three, the bodily strength will, no 
doubt, be exercised but little or not at all, 
hence it will remain latent or die out com- 

I. "So you admit that power, say, bodily 
power, will increase in proportion as it is put 
to use." 

He. "Certainly! It is the same as in the 
case of the magnet. The more a magnet is 
given by degrees to attract — of course, within 
the extreme limits of what a magnet can bear 
— the more it will attract." 

I. "Well, this is a great gain for me, for 
you admit that the inborn powers of man, that 
is, his aptitudes, develop only in proportion 
as they are put into activity and brought out 
by his educators." 

Every Child may Become Superior 35 

He. "Who could deny this? But how is 
this against me?" 

I. "It is not against you, but it helps me. 
very much in the establishment of my propo- 
sition, for it follows from it that all that is 
necessary is in the most careful and even man- 
ner, from the cradle on, to develop a child's 
natural aptitudes, in order to educate a man 
who will stand much higher than all the 
others who are endowed with the same nat- 
ural aptitudes." 

He. "You are mistaken. The case is mere- 
ly possible, but no conclusion can be drawn 
from what is possible to what actually is." 

I. "I beg your pardon. You are mistaken, 
for we are not yet speaking of the reality. 
You have already admitted the possibility, 
and this is all I want." 

He. "My friend, you seem to entangle me 
with invisible threads, and then you will all 
of a sudden cry out, 'Caught!' But that will 
not do! If your assertion contains an inner 
truth, you must proceed openly with me." 

I. "I have done so all along, and I intend 
to proceed in the same manner. Here is the 
proof of it. We started with your denial of 
the proposition that it was possible to make 

36 The Education of Karl Witte 

a superior man out of any healthily organ- 
ized child, provided he is properly educated." 
He. "P'ght, and I still deny it!" 
I. "So we have come to an agreement that 
men come into the world with the most di- 
verse aptitudes of body, mind, and heart; that 
the very favorably as well as the very unfav- 
orably organized children form the minority, 
while the ordinarily organized form the ma- 
jority. We have assumed a scale of aptitudes 
from one to one hundred, placing those of the 
cretin at one, the most favorably endowed 
human nature at birth at one hundred, and 
the endowment of most children at fifty; and 
you have granted to me that among ten chil- 
dren of the latter kind there will soon appear 
an enormous diversity of the growth of their 
powers, in proportion as this or that has re- 
ceived particular attention; that some powers 
would completely stagnate, if they were not 
used or developed, or were even repressed. 
Is this so?" 

He. "Yes, yes ! But what follows from it?" 

I. "What I have deduced from it, namely, 

that all that is necessary is evenly and with 

great care to educate the natural powers of 

Every Child may Become Superior 37 

a child, that is, his aptitudes, in order to make 
a superior man of him." 

He. "Very well! I admit that such a child 
will in time stand higher than those who be- 
gan with the same aptitudes, but who were 
later badly educated. But what does this 
prove against me? I may assume that among 
these ten boys five are educated very well. 
And you will certainly not deny that such a 
case is possible?" 

I. "I might deny it, for it is a rare thing 
for one to be educated very well. However, 
I will grant you this, in the ordinary sense 
of the word. But I cannot do so in the sense 
in which I take it, for I understand under 
an especially good education one in which 
already the child's father has, either by fate 
or by his parents, been educated uncommonly 
well; in which he possesses the needed health, 
time, knowledge, and experience to be able to 
give an exceptionally good education; in 
which he, besides, brings an inner inclination 
and an iron will for the education of his 
child; and in which he appropriately chooses 
his vocation, his domicile, his consort, his 
chief and secondary occupations, his friends, 

38 The Education of Karl Witte 

his acquaintances, and even his servants. He 
must be able and willing to live, now as a 
hermit, now in traveling, now in the great 
world, now in the country, now in a provin- 
cial town, now at the university, now in the 
capital. Only then can there be an education 
such as I have in mind, an entirely excep- 
tional one, by means of which all the child's 
powers may be developed in the widest and 
most even manner. 

"It was my ideal to be able to change at 
any moment, in conformity with the circum- 
stances, and I am grateful to Providence that 
I was granted the chance at least to approach 
my goal. But I should gladly have given my 
son an education in which I should have been 
able to make these changes with infinitely 
greater rapidity, every time they appeared 
necessary to me. But you will easily under- 
stand that that far exceeded my powers, that 
is, my ability; and it is only under such con- 
ditions that it would have been possible for 
me to develop all his aptitudes evenly, to the 
utmost limits of their perfectibility." 
He. "Very well! But who can do so?" 
I. "It is not impossible, as you will admit 
But if a child were educated in this manner, 

Every Child may Become Superior 39 

it would become evident that education placed 
him above all those with whom he once was 

He. "Yes, if I should assume that there 
exists such a wise, learned, able, good-hearted, 
and iron-willed father, you would be right; 
his education would place his child above all 
those who formerly were equal with him. But 
you have gained little by this, for your propo- 
sition says a great deal more. According to 
it a child thus educated would also have to 
surpass those who are born with the aptitudes 
rated at sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety. 
You see, I am magnanimous enough to rate 
your son at one hundred. 

I. "Do not do that! I shall accept what 
you have to say in so far as it is true. We 
shall soon see in how far you are right. I 
said: 'Every ordinarily organized child may 
become a superior man, if he is educated ex- 
ceptionally well.' A superior man does not 
mean the first, second, or third man in the 
whole kingdom. One may be satisfied if he 
towers over thousands, which he certainly 
will, for the children who are born with apti- 
tudes ojf eighty, eighty-five, ninety, ninety- 
five, and one hundred are certainly as rare 

40 The Education of Karl Witte 

as those, thank Heaven, who are by Nature 
stepmotherly endowed with aptitudes of twen- 
ty-five, twenty, fifteen, ten, five, and one. Con- 
sider more especially that many children are 
born and live with excellent aptitudes under 
such circumstances as make their aptitudes 
not only useless, but even harmful to them." 

He. "How so?" 

I. "The superior mental power will more 
easily harm than help the son of the robber, 
beggar, and poor day laborer. It can hardly 
be properly developed, on account of the un- 
fortunate circumstances under which they 
live. Consequently it will look for a side 
path, just as a seed does when it has a stone 
weighing upon it. And this side path is only 
too often a bad one. The more mental apti- 
tudes such a man possesses, the more I trem- 
ble for him, for what under other circum- 
stances ennobles the land and supports the 
throne, will easily deteriorate into trickiness, 
wiles, and rascality. This will happen the 
more certainly, the more powerfully and the 
quicker his mind asserts itself, for the neces- 
sary props of religion, of internal and exter- 
nal morality are lacking in him. He has not 
been accustomed to voluntary renunciation, 

Every Child may Become Superior 41 

acquiescence in submission to God, or wise 
patience. The stronger he is, the more cer- 
tainly he will try to crush his surroundings, 
and what might have ended in laurels and 
stars will lead him to the branding, the gal- 
lows, and the rack. Hence all the favorably 
organized children who are born under such 
and similar circumstances are not to be con- 
sidered at all, for they will not outshine the 
best-educated man with aptitudes of fifty. 

"Let us now ascend to the higher strata of 
society. The extremes generally meet. It is 
true that the children of the upper classes 
could be educated by far in the best manner, 
but are they? I wish I were obliged to an- 
swer, Yes. Of course, in their case there are 
very many means for doing so. I am speak- 
ing of the external means, wealth, opportu- 
nity to see and hear many interesting things, 
to converse with superior men, and to make 
use of everything which advances the mind. 
If the parents also possessed the internal 
means, and if these were honestly applied, 
the children of these upper classes would of 
necessity become the best. If, therefore, there 
is a distinguished and wealthy father who 
does not want or is unable himself to give 

42 The Education of Karl Witte 

his son a good education, and is wise enough 
to choose a superior educator from the middle 
class, who will be a father to his son in the 
best sense of the word, and if he is fortunate 
enough to find such a one, then let him spend 
on him what he can spend on himself, — he will 
not pay too much for him. I assume, above 
all else, that he gives this educator a free 
hand and that the educator does his duty. If 
the boy's aptitudes are excellent, so much the 
better. If they are mediocre, such an educa- 
tor is so much the more needed. If they are 
slight, he is indispensable. But how often 
have I seen such means neglected! 

"In the choice of an educator they do not 
always ask, Which is the better? but frequent- 
ly, Which is the cheaper? Which one has 
the most suave manners? or even, From what 
country does he come, or to what caste does 
the belong? Other parents circumscribe his 
free activity in regard to his charge. Others 
forget the respect and friendship which they 
owe him, and in all these cases hurt the child 
without retrieve. 

"And where is the upper-class family which 
would have the will and strength, — I will not 

Every Child may Become Superior 43 

say! on account of their son to sacrifice their 
own connections, prejudices, comforts, dis- 
tractions, and the sensuous enjoyments, which 
present themselves every day in another form 
to them, — but only firmly to remove these 
from their son? Are not most children of this 
type satiated before they have become youths? 
And if the parents have given them the in- 
heritance of pure blood, is it not too often 
polluted in their earliest years, and are not 
their bodies so weakened that they turn out 
to be feeble, pale house-dolls whom the first 
northerner throws to the ground, although 
with such educational means there should 
have resulted young Hercules with the men- 
tal powers of an Apollo? 

"We do not meet with many youths of the 
latter kind in upper-class society, and yet 
they should be common there; they should 
the more splendidly increase in mind as in 
years, because the opportunity to hear, see, 
and experience, hence to train and exercise 
the mind, presents itself to them every day; 
and because they are placed in offices which 
should be of help to them, since the activities 
associated with these ought to sharpen their 

44 The Education of Karl Witte 

intellect, increase their insight, and make 
them capable of acting and participating in 
great things. 

"With a little bit of reflection you will 
find, my friend, that I should have to fear 
much from this side, but in reality there is 
nothing to fear. In the upper classes of so- 
ciety there are really not many youths, per- 
haps not even children, who betray superior 
powers in body, mind and heart. Or are 
you of a different opinion?" 

He. "Unfortunately not. But what has 
that to do with our matter?" 

I. "It proves to you that if a child with 
an aptitude of fifty is really brought up as 
well as a child might be, he some day will 
tower above the youth of the upper classes, 
even if they were born with aptitudes of 
eighty, ninety, and one hundred." 

He. "Very, very bad it is, but I cannot 
find you wrong in it." 

I. "Thus we have left only the children 
of the well-to-do middle class. Since this 
class is the pith of the nation, I must dwell 
here a little longer. Children from the well- 
to-do middle class may reach a high degree 
of development. But here there takes place 

Every Child may Become Superior 45 

what I mentioned before: I should be wrong 
if the art of education had already advanced 
so far that parents or educators usually ac- 
complished everything which man is capable 
of accomplishing. This is so far from being 
the case that I may truly say that untold 
times they fail completely. I frequently 
marvel how it is possible for intelligent par- 
ents to act so wrongly, and yet this is a daily 
occurrence. I tell them so, and they do 
not listen to me, or they listen and feel it, 
but do not act accordingly. 

"As long as the parents love one child 
more than another; as long as their love is 
more sensuous than intelligent, more animal 
than human; as long as their money, or their 
honors in the state, or their pleasures and 
their society are more to them than their 
children; — so long will they never succeed in 
developing to the highest degree all the 
powers of their children alike, and so long 
will the one who is less endowed by nature, 
if everything has been done for him that 
can be done, of a surety rise above the others, 
even if their natural aptitudes surpass his 

"Add to this that a vivacious mind fails 

46 The Education of Karl Witte 

more easily than an inert one, and that it 
will more easily transgress and will issue 
from its transgressions with greater difficul- 
ty, — and you will at once see that a man who 
has been educated according to the ideal 
which the perfect educator has in mind will 
not so easily find another one who surpasses 

He. "Certainly. But you must admit that 
another person with greater aptitudes would 
advance much farther if he enjoyed the same 
good education." 

I. "No doubt about that!" 

He. "Well, how far would he advance?" 

I. "To a degree of perfection which is 
still unknown to us. What causes us to make 
complex calculations, such a man would see 
through in a moment; what to us is hard 
work, would be to him easy, pleasant play. 
Nothing but the limitations of human nature 
would keep him in bounds." 

He. "Do you believe that a man could 
be educated so far?" 

I. "Why should I not? I should have 
to deny a wise and kind God, if I did not 
believe it. I not only believe it, but I am 
absolutely convinced of it." 

Every Child may Become Superior 47 

He. "Well, I do not believe it, because 
it would be productive of much unhappi- 

I. "Unhappiness? What unhappiness?" 

He. "Much, very much unhappiness! Both 
in the upper and in the lower classes of 

I. "You make me very curious, because 
I do not see it." 

He. "I am surprised, for it seems so 

I. "So I beg you earnestly to inform me 
of it." 

He. "Gladly. You assume that there 
could be men who would be like angels, who 
everywhere recognize the truth without prej- 
udice; who everywhere ask only what is 
right, true, beautiful, good, sensible, proper, 
in accordance with duty, and so forth, and 
who, finally, consider as play and do far 
better what to us is hard work. You con- 
sider this possible, do you not?" 

I. "Very possible. Indeed, I hope that in 
a hundred years there will be many such 
men, if universal instruction and especially 
education continue to advance in the right 

48 The Education of Karl Witte 

He. "Then I pity poor humanity, for we 
shall have to pass through another revolu- 

I. "Why so?" 

He. "Very naturally so. There will arise 
men, — I follow out your ideas,*— who will 
stand infinitely higher than all their fel- 
lows " 

I. "I must interrupt you. Not so very 
much higher! Not more than at present 
our men of superior education surpass the 
others. You must not forget that I have 
added the condition, If universal instruction 
and especially education continue to advance 
in the right direction. If such is the case, 
the whole will remain in equipoise. The 
man of superior education will, of course, 
stand higher than the man of superior edu- 
cation at present; but the whole human race 
of his time will also stand higher, hence 
will come as close to him as the present race 
approaches the most cultured man of our 

He. "This somewhat softens my objection, 
but it does not remove it. In any case such 
a man will stand startlingly higher, hence he 
will want to drag humanity up to him. In 

Every Child may Become Superior 49 

other words, he will wish to introduce uni- 
versally justice, truth, beauty, goodness, rea- 
son, equity, duty, and if he is opposed he 
will call forth a revolution or will be taken 
to the insane asylum." 

I. "Either will be likely only in the same 
degree in which it is at present and has been 
ever since the world has existed. Extraordi- 
nary men have shaken the moral world more 
than once. But as long as we believe in a 
Providence, we must assume that it per- 
mitted this to happen for the best of human- 
ity. Besides, do not forget that I said that 
all the powers of a man educated in a supe- 
rior way must be developed evenly. If this 
is done, his heart will certainly not be poor 
in goodness, meekness, and patience, and in 
such a case love and sympathy for his fellow- 
men will soften the rough edges and sharp 
points in his desires and acts." 

He. "But if this should not happen?" 
I. "Since you proceed from our supposi- 
tion that in a superior system of education 
all the powers are symmetrically developed, 
your objection does not touch me. But I 
may allow it to be valid, and yet it does not 
embarrass me." 

£0 The Education of Karl Witte 

He. "Indeed?" 

I. "Yes. You will admit that a sharp 
knife may be used as much for good as for 
evil, for eating as for killing, will you not? 
Am I to honor and respect less the artist 
who has made it, on account of its possible 

He. "Certainly not." 

I. "My son was permitted to drink wine 
during long walks and before, during, and 
after exhaustive exertions. I almost encour- 
aged him to do so, although he did not cus- 
tomarily drink wine. Let us assume the un- 
fortunate case that he would become a 
drunkard, thus weakening in body and mind. 
Should I be blamed for having given him 
wine as medicine?" 

He. "Not at all!" 

I. "The art of writing, the invention of 
printing, powder, the discovery of America, 
and so forth, are all discoveries which, with 
the good which they have produced, have 
also caused much evil. Are they, on that ac- 
count, to be hated or despised?" 

He. "No, no!" 

I. "Shall we, perhaps, do the way our 
fathers and mothers did thirty and forty 

Every Child may Become Superior 51 

years ago, when they purposely did not al- 
low their daughters to learn writing, so that 
they would not be able to write love letters, 
and thus drove them into the nets of low 
cheats, lovelaces, and pimps?" 

He. "Heaven forbid!" 

I. "Well, then let us do what is good 
honestly and with all our power, trusting 
in God who will prevent the evil conse- 
quences or will lead to magnificent results. 
Shall we wish for no Washingtons and 
Franklins because they accomplished the 
revolution which has raised North Amer- 
ica so highly on the throne of ennobled 
humanity, and will continue to raise it still 
more highly? 'If England, the ruler, had 
met her subject daughter halfway in a friend- 
ly manner, there would have been no revolu- 
tion, and the happiness intended by the Deity 
would none the less have been attained.' In 
these words lies everything that I need to 
say, nay, even more than you think." 

He. "Oh, I understand you, and you are 
perfectly right. The Heavens grant that 
this experience and other experiences like it 
may produce the result which they could and 
should produce!" 

52 The Education of Karl Witte 

I. "I hope so, for humanity advances in- 
cessantly, and, thank Heaven, toward what 
is better. I can think only forty years back, 
but in these very forty years, as you know, 
a history of at least four hundred years has 
passed by us. I have lived to see mighty 
upheavals; I have more than once suffered 
terribly from them; and yet I aver that the 
present time is far preferable to that of old. 
As a man advanced in years I could easily 
foster prejudices for olden days; as an expe- 
rienced man I know the thousandfold evils 
that have walked the earth, — and yet I bless 
that fate that has allowed me to live until 
now, for truth and reason have mightily 
fought their way forward. The rights of 
humanity are recognized, even where it is 
done with anger. The classes that once were 
treated by the laws as herds and were arbi- 
trarily crushed, now stand up like men, for 
society has demanded and obtained consid- 
eration for them." 

He. "True! Good and true! But this 
very turn of our conversation reminds me 
of another objection. Let us see whether 
you are able to remove this also!" 

I. "Gladly! Only let me ask you first, 

Every Child may Become Superior 53 

through whom have those splendid results, 
which you yourself recognize as such, been 
produced, through better or through worse 

He. "What do you mean by that?" 

I. "What I mean to say by it does not 
belong here as yet. First of all we are con- 
cerned with what I say. So I ask you again, 
are these recognized excellent effects the 
work of men who were educated especially 
well or ill? Mind you, I include in edu- 
cation everything which time, place, cir- 
cumstances, intercourse, incidents, and vicis- 
situdes have done, thus aiding in the edu- 

He. "Now I understand you. Well, yes, 
through the most cultured, for I am not so 
foolish as to adduce the inhuman beings 
of the French atrocities against you." 

I. "That you could not do, if you wanted 
to keep your eye on truth, justice, and equity. 
It was the superciliousness, stubbornness, and 
weakness of the opposite party which pro- 
duced and fostered these abominations. As 
soon as they came into power, they first 
struck at the wiser and better men, because 
these always opposed their cruelty and un- 

54 The Education of Karl Witte 

reason. Do not forget that wherever there is 
talk about a dragon, there is also mention 
made of a swamp and cave as producer and 
habitat of such a creature. Destroy the two 
from the start, and there will be no evil 
dragon! Destroy them later, and he will 
soon disappear, and the evils which he has 
been doing, because they did not proceed, 
rationally, will now at least be destroyed." 

He. "I understand, and you are right. 
But now comes my objection. I wish you 
could overcome it, for it seems to me to be 
more important than the first." 

I. "You would not have said so, perhaps, 
fifteen minutes ago. But let me hear it!" 

He. "You assert that a time could and 
would come when individuals would in their 
development rise almost as high as the 
higher beings, that even the whole human 
race, at least whole nations, would attain a 
much higher degree of culture." 

I. "Certainly! I hope for it as a man. 
I believe it as a man of experience. I am 
convinced of it, because I am a rational 
being, and believe in an almighty, all-wise, 
and all-good God." 

He. "Very well! I do not deny it, it is 

Every Child may Become Superior 55 

a beautiful, elevating idea. But where shall 
we then get our worker-bees from? For the 
worker-bees of the present — the lower strata 
of the people — will rise so highly in edu- 
cation that they will not be willing to work." 

I. "You are mistaken, my friend! This 
can never happen in an all-sided education, 
and the one-sided one, which now is gener- 
ally called enlightenment, is not to be con- 
sidered by us, for, as I said, all the aptitudes 
of man are to be developed symmetrically, 
consequently the aptitudes of his heart, his 
disposition, his good will, his moral, his re- 
ligious sense are to be equally developed, 
and as highly as possible. Virtue and fear 
of God, as well as love for men, for one's 
duties and for God must attain the highest 
perfection in one educated in a superior way. 
Consequently he will respect his calling, will 
love his duties, and will gladly perform the 
work of his vocation, in order to please the 

He. "My dear friend! I do not believe 
you in this. What? You mean to say that 
a very cultured man will be willing to dig, 
plow, harrow, mow, thresh, and so forth? 

56 The Education of Karl Witte 

I. "You are mistaken. There have been 
shepherds who, with their most meager in- 
come, performed their still more lowly work 
faithfully and honestly, indeed, with sincere 
love for it, although they stood in real cul- 
ture higher than many a general, minister, 
or prince." 

He. "I should like to know of such a 

I. "You may easily know one. Read 
about David Klaus, the cowherd at Halber- 
stadt, whose life has been described by Kon- 
sistorialrath Streithorst. 

"A peasant of this kind was Kleinjogg, and 
I have known similar day laborers and work- 
men who rose far above their station of life 
and yet loved it sincerely and carried out 
their duties joyfully. And it has to be so 
if the education is of the right kind. A 
school-teacher and country preacher are cer- 
tainly abused men, if they want to do their 
duties. They have a mass of trifling, me- 
chanical labors to perform, hence a mass of 
very unpleasant affairs to deal with. The 
country preacher has even such duties to 
perform as endanger his health and his life. 
I have known men in both callings who, 

Every Child may Become Superior 57 

with the education of a Konsistorialrath and 
Professor, were obliged to struggle with 
want, and yet joyfully did everything for 
God's sake, do you understand me, my 
friend? for the sake of God who rules in 
their breasts as in the universe at large, in 
order to cultivate in the best manner possible 
this small corner in the great garden of the 
Deity, mindful of the promise, 'Thou hast 
been faithful in a very little, have thou au- 
thority over ten cities.' 

"There is, therefore, no danger in true 
culture. The worker-bees will, as before, 
find a pleasant occupation in flying about in 
God's free air, in finding the flowers useful 
to them, and in industriously collecting the 
honey-juice and the wax-dust. They will 
find their pleasure and pride, as before, in 
accomplishing most for themselves and for 
the common weal. If this does not happen, 
the fault lies with our enlighteners. 

"Suppose even that among them there will 
be some who will rise to an upper class, who 
will pass from the shepherd's staff to the 
pen, from the plow to the painter's brush or 
etcher's tool, what of it?" 

He. "That is just what I have been wait- 

$8 The Education of Karl Witte 

ing for. I say that it does do harm, for we 
shall soon have no manual workmen. There 
will be a lack of work-hands to produce and 
prepare the necessaries of life for us. We 
shall, therefore, go hungry, thirsty, and cold, 
because the lower classes have become too 
well educated, too refined, too tender, and 
too much ennobled, to be willing to stick 
to the clod of earth and dig in it." 

I. "Rest calm, my friend! There will al- 
ways be many who will want to remain 
worker-bees. I am assured of this by the 
diversity of natural aptitudes which will 
persist to the end of the world, and by the 
frailty of the human race, its inborn in- 
clination toward indolence, its tendency to 
do that which is easiest, and our universal 
love for moving actively in the open. Hunt- 
ing and fishing, no matter how low they 
stand in the scale of labor, are carried on 
with pleasure and with true passion, even 
by the highest men on earth. Nor have I 
any fear for wood-chopping, digging, — two 
sensible occupations of many learned men, 
in order to save themselves from hypochon- 
dria, — plowing, mowing, and threshing. 
There will always be found men who will 

Every Child may Become Superior 59 

like to do it. I am rather afraid that, with the 
higher perfection, we shall have too many 
unemployed hands." 

He. "How curious you are! I should 
think that this did not follow from what you 
said before." 

I. "Not directly, but certainly indirectly. 
We all know that there are countries even 
now where there are too many unemployed 
hands, because the higher culture pressed 
the fire, water, and air into service." 

He. "Oh, you mean England." 

I. "Yes, and a hundred other places as 
well. It was only yesterday that I visited 
a factory where one little steam engine was 
performing the work of three or four hun- 
dred persons, and was performing it better 
than they possibly could. But they have al- 
ready built a second one in the same factory, 
which will throw out more than one thou- 
sand persons. Who knows but that in one 
hundred and fifty years we shall be able to 
dig, harrow, plow, mow, bind, transport, and 
so forth, by means of machinery, even as it 
is now the case with propelling and paving." 

He. "You put the weapons into my hand, 
for I rightly ask you: How are we going to 

60 The Education of Karl Witte 

occupy the superfluous hands? There will 
be many of them, for there are here and 
there even now more than needed, and hu- 
man culture will still continue to grow, and 
the human race is said to be on an annual 
increase. Thus, for example, inoculation 
against small-pox now saves the lives of hun- 
dreds who would otherwise have died." 

I. "My dear friend, this is God's busi- 
ness. If He has given us the power and 
the will to rise higher, it is our duty to do 
so. It is His business to see to it that the 
whole does not lose its balance. And He 
will certainly do so. A hundred years ago 
people would have considered it impossible 
to be happy under the circumstances which 
we have lived through, hence we need not 
worry uselessly over what may happen in 
another hundred years. But we should be 
acting irrationally, nay, in the strictest sense 
of the word, godlessly, or rather most irrev- 
erently, if we rejected that which is better, 
or did not help in advancing it, because in 
our short-sightedness we see difficulties heap- 
ing up a hundred years hence. My friend, 
it will take a long time for all the arable 
land in Europe to be dug up, planted, and 

Every Child may Become Superior 61 

weeded. It will be a still much longer time 
before Asia, Africa, and America will con- 
tain no more uncultivated paradises. At 
present, men, from indolence, prejudice, and 
foolish love for the corner in which they 
were born, do not want to emigrate thither. 
The Deity will compel them, through the 
expected higher enlightenment, to turn their 
attention to those districts as well, and thus, 
with the aid of the universal ennoblement, 
the whole earth will become a great garden 
of God, where one will joyfully observe on 
all sides the visible traces of human labor, 
whether of the hands or the head. 

"A mass of former inhabitants of France 
are now settled in America. Fate drove 
them thither, — I say this from conviction, — 
and not accident. Who knows what impor- 
tant consequences this emigration will show 
in a few hundred years? For did not Rich- 
elieu accomplish a great deal of good in a 
short time at the Black Sea, both for Russia 
and for humanity? Famine drove two years 
ago a large number of Swiss to Russia and to 
America. So much the better, for there they 
will live more comfortably than at home, 
and will do much good." 

62 The Education of Karl Witte 

He. "But when the earth will be rilled 
with men, which will happen some day, what 

I. "My dear friend! This is one of the 
secrets or enigmas, — as you please — which 
the Deity has preserved for Himself, even as 
the preservation of the sexes in an equal pro- 
portion. With our present degree of educa- 
tion I consider it not only foolish, but even 
impudent, to try to pass any opinion on the 
matter. This is His affair!" 


Did I Intend to Make a Precocious 
Scholar Out of my Son? 

I DID not mean to make a savant of him, 
much less a precocious scholar. This state- 
ment is absolutely true, but I shall not be 
surprised if it appears strange, and even un- 
believable, to most readers. 

But let me tell what I wanted to make 
of him; then it will appear of itself what 
I did not want him to become. 

I wanted to educate him to be a man in 
the noblest sense of the word. So far as I 
in my circumstances could do so and was 
aided in this matter by my knowledge and 
experience, he was first of all to be a healthy, 
strong, active, and happy young man, and 
in this, as everybody knows, I have suc- 

He was to enter manhood with this inval- 
uable equipment. He was to develop his 
bodily powers to the utmost extent and yet 


64 The Education of Karl Witte 

harmoniously, even as he should do with 
his intellectual powers. It would have been 
in the highest degree unpleasant for me to 
have made of him pre-eminently a Latin 
or Greek scholar, or a mathematician. For 
this reason I immediately interfered when- 
ever I thought that this or that language or 
science attracted him more than any other 
at too early a time. 

The same I did with the strengthening 
and refining of his senses, which were exer- 
cised with care and developed as evenly as 

Aided by my wife, I proceeded in the 
same manner in the exercise of those powers 
which, alas! are only too seldom taken into 
consideration, such as common sense, power 
of imagination, delicacy of feeling, etc. 
Every sensible person, who has ripely con- 
sidered what I have so far said, will himself 
understand that we, his parents, laid the chief 
weight on the education of the young heart, 
and that we worked together, from the time 
he was in his mother's arms, to regulate his 
likes and dislikes according to the laws of 
external and internal morality, more particu- 
larly according to the laws of the purest 

A Precocious Scholar 65 

piety, and that some of these likes and dis- 
likes had, therefore, to be repressed, while 
others were encouraged and promoted. 

One will see that the picture which hov- 
ered before my mind's eye bore very little 
resemblance to the professional scholar of 
twenty years ago. It bears a somewhat closer 
resemblance to the scholar of to-day, and it 
may be hoped that in another twenty or fifty 
years the resemblance will be still closer. 

Certainly the closet scholars of the time 
when I was considering the education of 
my future children, — I am speaking of the 
rule, for I have nothing to do with the mem- 
orable exceptions, whom I know and honor, 
— were chiefly sickly, weak, more dead than 
alive in life, and in society shy and awk- 
ward. Their external vision seldom went 
beyond the nearest books, and their internal 
vision not much farther than the science of 
their vocation. From this resulted that mea- 
ger and dry conversation with any one who 
was not of their guild, and those short- 
sighted judgments about subjects of daily oc- 
currence, by which they made themselves so 
despised and ridiculous among men of the 
world and refinement, so that it became a 

66 The Education of Karl Witte 

proverb with them to say, "He is as pedantic 
and helpless as a scholar," or, "You can no- 
tice ten steps away that he is a scholar." 
What an endless number of ridiculous in- 
cidents have arisen from it! It would be 
easy to fill a whole book with them. 

The young man, who was considered a wit 
in society or who excelled with his gentler, 
refined sentiments and consequently despised 
the common, eternally recurring lecture- 
room passages, generally learned by heart 
or copied from somewhere, whose ennobled 
power of imagination made itself known by 
well-chosen, purely German, refined expres- 
sions in speaking and writing, at once fell 
under suspicion of those guildmen. More 
than once have I heard them express the 
judgment, "So and so cannot possibly have 
learned anything, for he writes verses and 
shines in society." 

On the other hand, prolix, dry disserta- 
tions, with long, intricate periods, gained for 
an author, especially if he frequently quoted 
the old classics, the usual praise, "He will 
amount to something, for he has been trained 
on the ancients!" 

The good ancients! How sarcastically 

A Precocious Scholar 67 

they would laugh, if they heard that such 
a housefly, such a bookworm, was compared 
with them, whose life from morning until 
evening passed in continuous action, in re- 
peated conversations about the business of 
their fatherland or their paternal city, in the 
market or near the city gates! 

Mind you, they were all essentially in- 
terested in the rise and fall of their father- 
land, while those learned artisans frequently 
knew no more about it than that it existed. 

One would hardly believe it that one of 
the greatest among those savants used to say 
to his students that Latin and Greek was 
the only thing that a sensible man needed 
to study, and that the so-called sciences (ex- 
cluding the sciences of antiquity) and the 
modern languages were childish plays which 
one could conveniently study at the tea-table. 

In regard to the heart I need only call to 
mind the well-known, almost classical ex- 
pressions, "scholars' envy," "scholars' haugh- 
tiness," "university cabals," to be believed 
that I did not mean to make a professional 
scholar out of my son. 

However, in so far as he had to become 
a scholar, he was at least not to be a pre- 

68 The Education of Karl Witte 

cocious scholar, if I had anything to do with 
it. A precocious scholar, a hothouse plant, 
a sickly child, a child corpse, all these were 
to me, through my own experience, through 
my teachers, and through the great precur- 
sors in the art of education, identical terms. 
I should have regarded it a heavy trans- 
gression against God and against my son, if 
I had allowed myself to bring him up as a 
precocious scholar. 

All I wanted to accomplish with my son 
was that in his seventeenth or eighteenth 
year he should be mature for the university, 
but that he should then have such a many- 
sided and thorough education as to be able 
to compete with any graduate, with the tacit 
conviction of his power to surpass them. 
That was all I wanted, and nothing more! 


How Came my Son to be a Precocious 

That happened quite naturally. If my 
friend Glaubitz, who knew me better than 
anybody, was right, it could not help hap- 
pening. In spite of his mediocre aptitudes 
and in spite of my aversion against precocity, 
the foundation was laid through the educa- 
tion which he had received, and the results 
had to follow as surely as a ball must roll 
down an inclined plane once it has been 
placed at its upper end. 

I did not recognize the fact then, for I 
was not sufficiently well acquainted with hu- 
man nature, its powers, its perfectibility. I 
judged only from what I knew and what I 
saw all about me. Consequently my judg- 
ment could not help being wrong, and I 
had to study human nature more closely. 

Oh, it stands very highly, much more 
highly than we imagine! But this is never 


70 The Education of Karl Witte 

seen under the so-called regular instruction. 
The usual method of education is a large, 
heavy dray which cannot pull itself from its 
deep ruts, or travel at a faster pace, and 
which, considering the many mediocre, or, 
to speak more correctly, the many ill-pre- 
pared minds, should not attempt to do other- 

These minds are like feeble itinerants, 
who walk by the side of the dray and have 
the more confidence in that dray, the slower 
and the more surely it advances. The poor 
fellows would be frightened out of their 
wits if it began to travel more rapidly, and 
the impotent ones would have to stay entirely 
behind, if it rushed away from them. 

It is very different with a light, comfort- 
able, safe vehicle. Without the use of many 
horses, it rushes with lightning rapidity past 
the creeping cart. But both, cart and car- 
riage driver, would be very silly, if they 
despised one another, or made mutual re- 
criminations. Both paces have their purposes 
and are adapted to circumstances. Both 
would act unnaturally, if they did differ- 
ently. There may occur reasons why both 
would change their pace, but these rarely 

How Came my Son to be Precocious yi 

happen. The driver of the dray will travel 
more rapidly down a gentle incline, and his 
fellow-travelers will be able to keep up with 
him. In the deep sand, in the swamp, or 
among many rocks, the carriage will travel 
more slowly. All that is as it should be, and 
only a fool would want it to be otherwise. 

Karl learned many things in the arms of 
his mother and in my own, such as one rarely 
thinks of imparting to children. He learned 
to know and name all the objects in the 
different rooms. The rooms themselves, the 
staircase, the yard, the garden, the stable, 
the well, the barn, — everything, from the 
greatest to the smallest, was frequently shown 
and clearly and plainly named to him, and 
he was encouraged to name the objects as 
plainly as possible. Whenever he spoke cor- 
rectly, he was fondled and praised. When, 
however, he failed, we said in a decidedly 
cooler manner, "Mother (or Father), Karl 
cannot yet pronounce this or that word!" 

Consequently he took great pains to know 
and correctly name all objects. Before long 
he pronounced all words, as we wanted him 
to do. There was no danger of stammering 
or stuttering, because he had to speak very 

72 The Education of Karl Witte 

slowly and was never intimidated. He 
thought and spoke freely, but he was obliged 
to think and to speak only after due con- 

We did not tolerate that unwisdom of 
many parents and nurses, who begin by 
teaching the child a language, which they 
call baby talk, but which in reality should 
be called gibberish. No one was allowed 
to say "moo" instead of "cow," "bah" in- 
stead of "sheep," "meow" instead of "cat," 
"bow-wow" instead of "dog," nor "moo-cow, 
bah-sheep, meow-cat, bowwow-dog," but 
only "cow, sheep, cat, dog." The diminu- 
tives were permitted only in the case of young 
and small animals of the same species. If 
the word "doggy" was used, the reference 
was plainly to a young or very small dog. 
In the first case we intentionally varied it 
with the appellation "a very young dog," 
and remarked that that would be more cor- 
rect. If it was small, but not exactly pretty, 
nor very young, we preferred to use the 
words "small dog" in place of "doggy," and 
directed his attention to the fact that the 
diminutive generally included the idea of 
prettiness and attractiveness on the part of 

How Came my Son to be Precocious 73 

the one so called, and of fondling on the part 
of the one calling it. 

"When you have been naughty, that is, 
when you did not say or do what you should," 
we would say to him, "you will hardly hear 
us call you Karlchen. No, you are sure to 
be called Karl! Is it not so?" 

We carefully observed this distinction, like 
many others of the kind, and in his company 
we always spoke pure German, in other 
words, book German, in very simple and 
comprehensible, but none the less choice ex- 
pressions, and always loudly, distinctly, and 
in an appropriately slow manner. We never 
allowed ourselves to make an improper use 
of intonation. We spoke as correctly, in 
every sense of the word, as we could. Ob- 
scure and intricate sentences and expressions, 
such as gave no distinct meaning, were scru- 
pulously avoided. 

He had never heard, nor spoken, a con- 
fused childish babble, consequently there was 
no need for him to unlearn it and acquire 
a correct speech. 

The only thing of the kind which I toler- 
ated for a time was speaking in the third 
person, instead of using the abstract I, thou, 

74 The Education of Karl Witte 

he, etc., because it lies deeply in the nature 
of the uneducated man, consequently also of 
the child, not to be able easily to rise above 
it. This, however, took place only so long 
as it was unavoidable, whenever we wanted 
to be absolutely clear to him. Very soon we 
began to make the change, by using now and 
then the words "I, thou, he, she," for "father, 
mother, Karl," thus explaining one by the 
other, and preparing and facilitating the use 
of what was more correct. A little later, we 
jokingly, but with no bitterness whatsoever, 
would add, "If you were more intelligent, 
I should have said 'thou' (or 'I')." 

Such a friendly jest, which refers to igno- 
rance, want of intelligence, etc., urges the 
child on to make an effort and learn what he 
does not yet know. 

In this manner Karl early learned to know 
and name correctly everything surrounding 
him, and what he could pronounce he always 
spoke in pure German, as though he had 
read it in a well-written book especially pre- 
pared for children. Indeed, he could not do 
otherwise, since he had never heard any bad 
German from us. He naturally enunciated 
his words so correctly and audibly that the 

How Came my Son to be Precocious 75 

little orator frequently evoked our smiles and 
strangers' admiration. 

It is clear that the correct acquisition of 
his mother-tongue makes the child intelligent 
at an early time, for it puts his attention and 
his several mental powers continuously in 
action. He is obliged always to search, dis- 
tinguish, compare, prefer, reject, choose, in 
short, he must work, that is, think. If he 
has proceeded correctly in this, he is praised. 
If he has made a mistake, he is jestingly 
reproved, or is given a helpful hint. He 
then once more goes through his mental proc- 
esses, is happier, and rejoices at his struggle 
and victory, as also at the paternal or ma- 
ternal approval. 

Besides, how useful it is for memory! If 
the above-mentioned activities are to take 
place, there is need of a supply of words, 
hence memory must be active, to grasp and 
keep them. Let us assume that of the enor- 
mous treasure of the German language only 
thirty thousand words pass into the child's 
mind in his first five or six years, and this 
may be easily accomplished in the case of 
an exceptionally well-brought-up child. See 
the chance memory has in that case to be 

76 The Education of Karl Witte 

exercised and strengthened! And how the 
child is at the same time urged on, if he 
has been accustomed to it and feels the in- 
clination to speak with reflection and care! 
With but very little aid the child sketches 
for himself a kind of grammar and, accord- 
ing to his ability, likes to pick out the vari- 
ous changes of nouns and verbs. It is only 
then that he invites the beneficent aid of real 
grammar, be it from the mouth of his father, 
or in a printed book, if he has become accus- 
tomed to reading. 

All this has been vaguely felt before, hence 
instruction began with the ancient languages. 
Unfortunately it was felt only vaguely, other- 
wise the inexcusable thing would not have 
happened of neglecting the mother tongue 
and intimidating the child's mind by the dry 
dead languages, and thus choking his intel- 
lect in the germ. 

This early occupation with the mother 
tongue introduced Karl every day more and 
more into its inner depths, and prepared him 
for learning the foreign languages with great 

What under other conditions would have 
disgusted or frightened him in these Ian- 

How Came my Son to be Precocious JJ 

guages was now, indeed, new, but not entirely 
strange to him. He had learned something 
like it in his mother tongue, and had made 
it his own. All he had to do was to modify 
something, and the strange language was 
clear to him. As he had accustomed himself 
to do mental work, such occupation gave him 
pleasure, for he knew full well that every 
struggle brought with it a victory, and that 
victory was enjoyable. 

The natural consequence of all that was 
that he, without great effort, read in the orig- 
inal Homer, Plutarch, Virgil, Cicero, Ossian, 
Fenelon, Florian, Metastasio, and Schiller, 
and that, too, with sincere pleasure, often 
with true enthusiasm, when he was but eight 
years old. Therefore the great linguist 
Heyne of Goettingen sixteen months later 
said of him in writing that he was possessed 
of a sagacity, common only to able minds, 
of guessing correctly what he did not know. 
Heyne, no doubt, was right, for he had ex- 
amined him very carefully among thousands 
whom he had examined before, and I would 
have said that my method of education was 
a failure, if it had not been thus. But here 
are Heyne's own words to Wieland: 

yS The Education of Karl Witte 

Goettingen, July 25, 1810. 
Revered Veteran: 

Pastor Dr. Witte spoke to me with grateful praise of 
your good wishes and plans for his son's further edu- 

Although I am not a friend of precocious maturity, 
and respect the common laws of Nature, I also recog- 
nize that Nature herself makes exceptions, and that it 
becomes our duty to take her hints and further the early 
development of a more capable mind. In that respect 
and in order more closely to study the boy's aptitudes 
and natural ability, with a view to a possible wider de- 
velopment, for the boy's own sake and advantage, I al- 
lowed myself to be persuaded to observe him nearer at 
hand, and by an examination to form my own judgment, 
independently from other people's judgments and from 
admirers; not merely for the purpose of observing him 
as a product of Nature, fit for experiments, but also 
in order to determine whether it would be possible to 
make of him, through an education adapted to his nat- 
ural aptitudes, a happy, humanly and civilly useful mem- 
ber of society, — which, indeed, might not be an easy task. 

I found the boy hale and hearty in body and mind, 
more than I had expected. I tried him with Homer 
and Virgil, and I found that he possessed sufficient ver- 
bal and material information to translate readily and 
get the sense, — a natural ability, generally possessed by 
capable minds, without a more exact grammatical or 
logical knowledge, to guess the context correctly. The 
most remarkable thing to me was that he read sensibly, 
with feeling and effect. Otherwise I found in him no 
other preponderating mental power, no striking talent: 
memory, imagination, intelligence were at about a bal- 
ance. In other things, such as were not drilled in by 

How Came my Son to be Precocious 79 

instruction, I found him to be a happy, hale boy, not 
even averse to mischief, which was a consolation to me. 
As to his predilection for epic poets and earnest, soul- 
stirring poems and writings, his previous education may 
account for that, — a notable testimony to his father's way 
of bringing him up. 

We shall hardly live long enough to see the final re- 
sults of the method employed, but I heartily hope, like 
yourself, that the State, as we are wont to say, will 
take advantage of the uncommon favor of Nature, and 
that the boy may some day attain a commensurate de- 
gree of happiness. To judge from appearances, his vo- 
cation, usefulness, and good fortune will lie in the field 
of learning, perhaps more especially in that of history. 

Pardon me, revered friend, for having expatiated at 
greater length than I had intended to. I was therein 
misled by the pleasure of conversing with you once 

Devotedly yours, 


When still a small child, of four or five 
years, Karl derived an incredible amount of 
profit from his thorough knowledge of his 
mother tongue. He had not acquired it from 
dead books, in the manner in which Greek 
and Latin are usually funneled into children, 
and, alas, in the opinion of many men still 
living, must be funneled in, or rather beaten 

Sixteen hours of Latin a week for a thir- 

80 The Education of Karl Witte 

teen-year-old boy! That is bad, and I un- 
fortunately am speaking of the year 1818 and 
of a famous school at Berlin. 

Karl learned his pure German rather in 
life, in the house, in the garden, in the 
meadow, field, and forest, in society, on long 
and short journeys, in short, under all the va- 
rious conditions which I in my situation was 
able to create for him. In his first year we 
began to take him with us wherever we went, 
and, as far as possible, he had everything ex- 
plained to him, especially if he seemed to be 
attracted by anything. 

Thus he had in the first two years of his 
life accompanied us to Merseburg, Halle, 
Leipsic, Weissenfels, Naumburg, Dessau, 
Woerlitz, Wittenberg, etc., and in all these 
places he learned a mass of things which he 
would never have seen at home. 

In his third and fourth years he still more 
frequently visited those places, received bet- 
ter impressions of what he had seen and heard 
there, grasped it more clearly, and expanded 
his circle of knowledge. He naturally saw 
more important and more interesting things, 
for in his third year he passed eight weeks 
in Leipsic, and in his fourth and fifth he went 

How Came myk.Son to be Precocious 81 

with me to Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Salz- 
wedel, Stendal, the Mannsfeld territory, a 
part of the Harz Mountains, etc. He was 
introduced into every kind of society and to 
everything memorable. He, consequently, 
was as well acquainted with the concert, 
drama, and opera, as with watermills and 
windmills, with lions, ostriches, and elephants, 
as with moles and bats, with salt mines as with 
steam engines, with the village market as with 
the Leipsic Fair, with excavations as with 
mines, with brilliant society (as with a poor 
day-laborer's cabin, with the viancing-floor as 
with the death-bed. < 

None of these things he knuw by merely 
staring at them, as children ge erally know 
them, but thoroughly, often more, thoroughly 
than adults know them, for his mother and I 
every time discussed the matters with him, or, 
purposely, with each other in his presence. 
He was frequently asked whether he had 
taken good notice of this or that, and how he 
had liked it. He soon became accustomed to 
repeating and discussing what he had seen 
and heard, and he himself addressed us, in- 
quired, reported, retorted, etc. 

If one considers that in his fifth year he 

82 The Education of j'Zarl Witte 


traveled with me to Potsdam and Berlin, 
through Priegnitz aid by many roads 
through Mecklenburg as far as Rostock, 
Warnemuende, and Dobberan, that he went 
to sea in still weather and in moderate storms, 
that he observed commerce and navigation, 
then proceeded over Ludwigslust to the Alt- 
mark, and here for iveeks lived in the country, 
in all kinds of social circles and districts, 
everywhere considered and treated as a be- 
loved child of thtir own, that people took real 
delight in the ^ittle questioner and babbler, 
and readily gave him every desired informa- 
tion, — one wil ' easily understand that he thus 
laid by a treasure of linguistic and material 
informationAsuch as but few older persons 
possess. *w 

I must lay special stress on this that he 
knew nothing wrongly, nothing in a preju- 
diced way, in so far as we, his parents, knew 
the objects correctly. If we lacked the pre- 
cise information, we had ourselves and Karl 
instructed by the best-trained and best in- 
structed men. 

In his sixth year I passed with him six 
weeks in Dresden, thoroughly acquainted him 
with the beautiful nature of the place and of 

How Came my Son to be Precocious 83 

its surroundings, especially with its many art 
treasures,* and, by constant observation and 
repeated discussions about them, which we 
had then and later, improved his taste. While 
in Leipsic, Potsdam, and Berlin, or wherever 
anything beautiful was to be seen, I had 
begun to guard him against the childish de- 
light in bright-colored pictures, the drawing 
of which was wrong. He was particularly 
cautioned against it during our visits to the 
Dresden Art Gallery, particularly to the 
inner Italian Hall, among the antiques and 
Mengs' casts. Since then I have never no- 
ticed in him any silly judgments about mat- 
ters of art, such as one too frequently hears, 
even from grown children! 

As soon as the weather became settled, dur- 
ing our stay in Dresden, we visited the 
Plauischer Grund, Tharand, and $he whole 
Saxon Switzerland. Since I had previously 
and more than once seen everything beautiful 
there, vith a book in my hand and a guide 
at my side, nothing was then overlooked or 
carelessly inspected. What variety these 
heavenly regions offer to the adult, and still 
more to a child of six years! The lovely sur- 
roundings of Schandau and Lohmen, the 

84 The Education of Karl Witte 

Liebethaler and the Ottowalder Grund, the 
Kuhstall and the Prebischthor, the Bastion, 
the basaltic columns at Stolpe, and the high 
Winterberg, finally the Koenigstein, Lilien- 
stein, Sonnenstein, and Pillnitz. 

All the above objects, and many more, were 
correctly named to Karl, and we spoke, read, 
and passed opinions concerning them. Our 
guides, friends, and acquaintances shared 
their sentiments with him and with me. He 
told it all to his mother and his young and 
old friends in Merseburg, Halle, and Leipsic, 
and wrote about it to distant acquaintances. 
He thus had it entirely in his power to ex- 
press himself intelligently and clearly about 

The useful result of this is much greater 
than one may think, for the more objects a 
man knows correctly, with their names and 
properties, and the better he can impart that 
knowledge to others, the greater is the mental 
supply which he has laid in and over which 
he has command, and the more frequently he 
finds himself induced "to seek, compare, dis- 
tinguish, prefer, reject, or choose — that is, to 
work, to think;" and the more a man thinks, 
the more he learns to think. Consequently 
there is an immeasurable gain, if we can get 

How Came my Son to be Precocious 85 

the children first to think before they want to 
do or say something. 

A child that is accustomed to think learns 
every moment more and more. It may be 
that the particular subject is too difficult for 
him at the time being, but having become 
used to wanting to understand it (I would say 
of the properly educated child "to being ob- 
liged to understand it"), he at least tries to 
retain what he cannot understand, and, with- 
out knowing it himself, quietly works at it, 
in order to make clear to himself what so far 
has been obscure to him. He inquires, in- 
vestigates, listens to something that bears a re- 
lation to it. He may be reading about an 
entirely different matter, but he finds some 
hint, some elucidation, which seems to him 
to refer to that which he did not understand 
before. Now all his mental powers are put 
into new activity. He reads on industriously, 
quizzfj his parents, teachers, friends, play- 
mates, — in short, he does not rest until, plow- 
ing his way through the unsteady waves of 
ignorance, he arrives at the firm, blossoming 
shore of clear insight. 

Significant also is the observation that a 
child that has at an early time become ac- 

86 The Education of Karl Witte 

quainted with many things, has become famil- 
iar with their names and properties, and has 
with ease and correctness expressed himself 
about them, will very attentively listen to the 
conversation of adults. He will not find it 
tiresome, will not yawn during it, will not 
behave with stupid, childish attention, that 
is, with thoughtlessness. As he understands 
the greater part of it, he will take sincere 
interest in it. If there is something that he 
does not understand, his interest will thereby 
be increased, for what is said is new to him, 
he wants to and must understand it, and his 
habitual activity will not rest, until this knot, 
too, has been untied. 

What an immeasurable amount a child will 
learn in six, eight, or ten years, that is, in 
3,650 days, in 36,500 hours, reckoning the day 
at ten hours, if every conversation with him 
or in his presence teaches him something! 

It is on this that my firm conviction is based 
that even a mediocre child may be approxi- 
mated to a higher being, if one understands 
how to do it, and is able and willing to try it. 


Did I Pretend to have the Necessary 

Skill for Making a Scholar 

of my Son? 

Oh, no! I had, indeed, in schools and uni- 
versities done as well as the best around me, 
and as a graduate I had constantly and most 
carefully attended to my higher education, as 
is attested by the various learned examina- 
tions which I passed before Chaplain Kletzke, 
in the Consistory at Magdeburg, and in the 
Higher Consistory at Berlin. Nor had I 
ceased instructing others, consequently I had 
added to my knowledge. I had, besides, been, 
with a kindness which put me to shame, of- 
fered teaching positions in the institutions of 
the then greatest educators of Germany, Ge- 
dike, Salzmann, Pfeffel, Karoline Rudolphi, 
etc. Yet I considered it unthinkable for a 
single person, with a very moderate income, 
living in the country, without possessing any 
means for instruction or being able to provide 
them promptly, to carry the education of a 


88 The Education of Karl Witte 

rapidly and well-progressing child any far- 
ther than to his eighth or tenth year — that 
is, as I then thought, until he would be able 
to attend the lowest of the upper divisions 
of a higher institution of learning. 

I, therefore, planned, before and after 
Karl's birth, for men like Gedike and Schewe 
to take active part in his upbringing, as soon 
as I should no longer be able to give him the 
proper instruction. In their institutions there 
were ten or twelve teachers, and in the Grey 
Cloister at Berlin there were possibly even 
more. With the funds at their disposal they 
could 'choose the ablest candidates, and ap- 
point them to such branches of instruction as 
they felt them to be most fitted for. I con- 
sidered all that, and so I was far from imag- 
ining that I should be able to take their place. 

Just as during the education of my son 
there showed themselves a few evil men who 
tried to crush what I and my friends were 
planting, so there will be found some even 
now who will say, "That is nothing but as- 
sumed modesty! He certainly had the confi- 
dence that he would be able to accomplish 
what he wanted to accomplish, and, possibly, 
even more." 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 89 

I must expect something like that, to judge 
from the malicious, secret doings of certain 
gentlemen who in time will be found out 
and treated with contempt, for those who are 
capable of doing something bad to a distinctly 
good cause are obliged to defend or, at least, 
mantle their meanness. The method which 
these gentlemen employed was, with the aid 
of their henchmen, good friends, clients, and 
disciples, to circulate a mass of calumnies, 
now orally in the town, now by letters to the 
outside world, now by articles and reviews 
in periodicals of every description. 

All that was done with great slyness, doing 
my son and me harm, but the tricksters have 
not attained their ends, for my son is still re- 
spected and loved. 

The good cause is well established and, 
with God's aid, will become yet better estab- 
lished. Should my son or I soon pass into a 
better world, the proof will have been given, 
none the less, that man's education can, with- 
out doing him injury, proceed much more 
rapidly than has heretofore been supposed. 

I take up the expected objection that I had 
the confidence of accomplishing what I have 
accomplished, and I reply, "No!" My prep- 

90 The Education of Karl Witte 

arations at the child's birth show that I am 
telling the truth. My later behavior proves 
it still more clearly. 

As soon as my son had made some progress 
in Latin and was to begin Greek, I looked 
about for a teacher to help me, because I felt 
that I could not do what should be done in 
accordance with my ideal. 

In Halle, in Leipsic, in Magdeburg, in 
Berlin, everywhere I tried, at the sacrifice of 
what for me was a very great yearly salary 
and excellent upkeep, to get the kind of man 
I wanted to have, but fate was against me. 
What I wanted only a very few could do, and 
these few had more advantageous situations 
or such as offered them better prospects for 
the future. 

I wanted a man who could read Greek as 
easily and with as much pleasure as I could 
read German, Latin, Italian, or French; 
who, at the same time, would be such a master 
of his mother-tongue as to be able with little 
exertion to render every Greek expression 
into German; who with just as little exertion 
could correctly translate back into Greek and 
would know all the grammatical forms, even 
for all the dialects, and could deduce them 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 91 

from one another, — in short, a man who, in 
company with the boy, could sketch a short 
Greek grammar. It was still more important 
for me that he should be thoroughly ac- 
quainted with the whole of Greek literature 
and with the people to whom it belonged, 
with Greece, Magna Graecia, Asia Minor, the 
islands, with all the countries at the different 
periods of Greek culture. At the same time 
he should know their constitutions, govern- 
ments, customs, habits, usages, entertainments, 
life in peace and in war, their education, 
morals, religion, law, politics, commerce, 
arts and sciences. I should have been still 
more pleased if he had been as well ac- 
quainted with Rome and with everything that 
goes with it. 

I thought I had found such a man in my 
former schoolmate, Dr. B., and through our 
common friend Glaubitz I made proposals 
to him which meant great monetary sacrifices 
for me. But, as he told us, he had already com- 
mitted himself to a situation which he was 
obliged to keep as an honest man, and which 
from considerations of advantage, he did not 
wish to give up. 

Many others had been recommended to me, 

92 The Education of Karl Witte 

before and after him, but most of them, upon 
closer acquaintance, appeared useless for my 
purpose; indeed, most did not possess as much 
knowledge of the two languages as I had. 
Still less were they capable of fulfilling the 
higher demands. 

I shall relate one case, for the rest are very 
much alike. 

A graduate student from our part of the 
country returned with much acclaim from the 
university. He himself, his parents, and his 
relatives assured all that he had been the fa- 
vorite student of one of our greatest philolo- 
gists. He was proposed to me with the as- 
surance that I should be very fortunate if he 
decided to become my assistant. 

His boastful statements, of which I had 
heard, made me distrustful. I, therefore, re- 
plied that I was just then undecided as to 
what I was going to do, but that I should be 
very happy if Mr. W. — that was his name — 
would for a week leave his parents, in order 
to stay with me, and would daily instruct my 
son for half an hour in Greek according to 
my method. 

I purposely let him the first day watch how 
I acted during the instruction, after I had 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 93 

expounded my ideas to him. The next morn- 
ing his teaching began. I had asked him to 
begin with one of the easy readers, which I 
had procured; but he entered the room with 
the Iliad in his hand, and forthwith pro- 
ceeded to deliver himself of a very scholarly 
introduction which I was compelled to be- 
lieve he had merely learned by heart. In 
this supposition I was strengthened by the 
blunders and startling lacunae in the context. 

Karl would now and then utter a sigh, and 
looked at him as at some strange animal, 
which one was more afraid of than glad to see. 
Occasionally the boy would open his mouth, 
as if to say, "I do not understand a word of 
it all!" but that was quite in vain, for the tor- 
rent of Mr. W.'s eloquence immediately 
closed it again. 

The boy stood it all patiently, and so did I. 

When the half hour was over, but the 
learned introduction had not yet come to an 
end, I asked him to close it for the day, and 
to take up five minutes in translation. This I 
would prefer to be made from the reader, or, 
if Mr. W. so chose it, from the Iliad. 

Mr. W. began to translate from the Iliad. 
He scanned every verse with great pathos, 

94 The Education of Karl Witte 

and poured forth a translation in such an im- 
pure, now and then execrable, German that 
I was simply horrified. My poor little son 
was overcome with terror, for he thought, 
from his previous experience, that I would 
demand of him readily to repeat what he had 

I, therefore, at once freed him from his 
fear, by saying, with a merry jest, "My dear 
boy, you cannot repeat that, for it is as yet too 
learned for you! For you to be able to repeat 
it well, you have to get it translated in com- 
pany with the teacher. That could not be 
done here, because Mr. W. knows his Homer 
too well, and so does not have to look up in 
the dictionary and grammar, as I do with 
you. It would be bothersome for him, but I 
do it gladly out of love for you, as you know." 

That quieted Karl and did not hurt Mr. W. 
When we were left alone, I asked him to 
come down from his high pitch, because 
otherwise Karl would derive no profit from 
his instruction. But he asserted that that was 
the proper way to teach, and that he had faith- 
fully copied his great teacher. 

"Excuse me," I replied, "that is so much 
the worse, for I am not at all sure that this 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 95 

way is proper for youths, and I certainly am 
convinced that it is quite useless for a child 
of seven years." 

He insisted he was right, and he was my 
guest, so I suffered patiently and merely asked 
him to consider my son's weakness and my 
sincere wish, and to instruct Karl the next 
day from one of the Greek readers at hand. 
At last he unwillingly promised to do so. 
None the less the next day he terrified Karl 
and me by his Homer. 

Having listened to him in suffering for 
fifteen minutes, I interrupted him very earn- 
estly : 

"Karl," said I, "do you understand what 
Mr. W. lectures to you? That is, do you 
understand it sufficiently well to be able to 
recite it to me?" 

The poor boy, who had never been in such 
a painful situation before, said, with a deep 

"No, dear father, I cannot do that! Much 
of it I do not understand, and the rest I have 
not listened to." 

"Well," I replied, "then I ask you most 
earnestly, Mr. W., to put the Iliad aside and 
to take this reader. I thank you very much 

96 The Education of Karl Witte 

for your good will, but Karl, as you see, is 
still too far behind to be able to grasp Ho- 
mer. I am sure you wish to be useful to him 
and obliging to me." 

After many objections and assurances that 
it would all come out well in the end, that 
Karl would every day understand him better, 
etc., he finally made up his mind to do what 
he could not avoid, that is, to translate the first 
little story in the reader with Karl. 

The great, superior learning at once came 
to an end. There occurred words and forms 
which embarrassed him, and as he was too 
vain to look them up, he was satisfied to guess 
at them and to translate the whole with ap- 
proximate correctness and — in bad German. 

All that was so contrary to my intentions 
that I repeatedly requested him to go slowly 
and to render word for word exhaustively. 
Karl, too, asked him to do so, but in vain. I, 
therefore, put an end to the whole matter by 
showing him that Karl had hardly understood 
a thing in the story which he had been read- 
ing to him. I translated the next story to 
him in my own way, and Karl was aglow 
with joy and could hardly wait to translate 
the story to us. When he had to do that, he 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 97 

had complete command of it, and, in spite of 
all objections and quizzing questions on my 
part, he rendered it almost the way I had 
translated it to him the first time. 

Anybody but a Moor would have been 
washed white by such an experience, but Mr. 
W. was too puffed up to be able to doubt his 
knowledge or power of teaching. I no longer 
troubled him with the instruction, and in a 
few days he left us altogether. 

I have unfortunately had several such ex- 
periences and have seen and heard of many 
more. How a poor child is to be pitied that 
falls into the hands of such a man! 

He not only learns next to nothing, but, 
what is much worse, his head is being filled 
with incorrect notions, which later on hinder 
him in seeing and acquiring what is correct. 
He becomes accustomed to wander about with 
half-grasped ideas, and to consider the teach- 
er who has imparted them to him as a light of 
the world and, like his model, to despise his 
betters who bring and demand clearness in 
everything. "That man has no learning! He 
knows only what is comprehensible to every- 
body," that is what his admired teacher has 
meant to say only too often, and the boy has 

98 The Education of Karl Witte 

ended by blabbing it after him. His ideas 
about studying, learning, and scholars will, 
in consequence, remain wrong, possibly for 
all time, as we only too often hear grown-ups 
deliver such misjudgments. 

Much worse are the evil consequences of 
such instruction upon life. The boy does not 
learn anything in a proper manner, grasps 
nothing clearly, receives nothing as his pos- 
session, but by degrees allows the half-truths 
or even the absolute nonsense to be funneled 
into him, babbles the undigested stuff, and 
considers himself to be a wiseacre, if his su- 
perficialities can surprise and perplex others 
as his teacher perplexed him before. Then he 
proceeds to act in the same way in all the af- 
fairs of life. 

He considers it common and low to insist 
on clear, enlightening views, or to respect and 
emulate those who have them. He can never 
master his subject completely, for he has not 
been taught how to do this. Nor would he 
wish to master it, for he feels at home in the 
half-darkness, and fears the clear light of 

Hence the opinion entertained concerning 
scholars of that type is frequently correct, 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 99 

when it is said of them that they are not fit 
for affairs, for they stir up the clear water 
until it becomes turbid. They heap rocks 
upon rocks in order to level a molehill, but 
they only cover it and make the evil so much 
the worse. 

Worst of all are the consequences of such 
confusing instruction upon the heart. I have 
found that the men of that class are usually 
very conceited and extremely supercilious 
toward persons with brighter views, — if they 
do not fear them or expect something from 
them. And as the faults of the parents and 
teachers are easily transferred to the children 
and pupils, there is danger that even these 
will be transmitted to the younger genera- 

After many failures I finally came to the 
conclusion that my nearest friends, for ex- 
ample Professor W., Pastor Glaubitz, and 
others, might be right when they asserted that 
I possessed the necessary knowledge to ad- 
vance my son farther than I had dared to 

However, they were not entirely right, al- 
though the start seemed to justify them, for 
they had counted too little upon the perfecti- 

ioo The Education of Karl Witte 

bility of human nature, which is immeasur- 
ably great. 

Had I been obliged to impart everything to 
my son in the usual way, I should not have 
been able to bring him half so far as I actually 
have brought him, and I should have wasted 
two or three times the energy and time and 
have caused him a considerable amount of 
torture. But I proceeded in the very oppo- 
site direction, and he would have learned a 
great deal more, if I had known more of the 

He learned constantly, without noticing it. 
He increased, refined, and heightened his 
mental powers to such an extent that he soon 
saw through every subject that presented itself 
to him; or, at least, did all he could in order to 
see through it, for 

"His wings with the victory grew!" 

Yet he did not imagine that he was doing 
anything but what any child, any ordinary 
man, did and should do. Besides, he learned 
gladly because he experienced manifold 
pleasures in doing so, and observed the con- 
stant growth of his ability to advance still 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 101 

While so many people get tired of studying 
and learning, he became ever more eager for 
it It actually caused him torment to dis- 
cover a field of knowledge in which he knew 
little or nothing. "Oh, how much pleasure I 
am missing!" he would not only say, but also 
feel, with tears of longing. Hence his im- 
measurably high respect for those who knew 
more than he, and the tender gratitude which 
he showed a person who gave himself the 
trouble to enlighten him. 

He seized every book, every science, every 
language with the eager desire of making its 
excellent contents his own. When such a state 
is reached with boys and youths, everything 
has been attained. The rest is done by God, 
or, rather, by the power which he gives, the 
divine spark, which, unobserved by the com- 
mon eye, glows very brightly within us. 

A boy who has been thus guided advances 
farther and farther, until impeded by the 
limitations of human or his own particular 
nature. He will and must attain to something 
high and good. 

I surmised all this, but I only surmised it. 
I did not see it as clearly and as surely as later 
on. But I grasped it with sufficient clearness, 

102 The Education of Karl Witte 

to base an idea upon it which was at once re- 
ceived in Leipsic with universal approval. I 
resolved, with the encouragement of my late 
friend, Professor Erhard, to open an educa- 
tional institution which would give its pupils 
the kind of preparation my son had received. 

I intended to take in this preparatory school 
no more than ten children at a time, in order 
to give them the best personal attention, and 
I intended to select and educate my own 
teachers, and to guide as much as possible in 
person, in order to minimize annoyances. It 
was evident what I wanted to accomplish, 
and people were quite satisfied with the prob- 
able results, and they had confidence in my 
necessary power and sufficient will. They 
offered me boys on all sides, and as young as 
I wanted them, and all other offers were sat- 
isfactory to me. I could not yet take boarding 
pupils, and so was to take them as half- 

My wife, too, was requested to do the same 
with ten girls, and she was also offered chil- 
dren from the best families under the same 
conditions. But Fate willed otherwise, for 
the Westphalian Government ordered me to 
go with my son to Goettingen. I was thus 

The Skill for Making a Scholar 103 

obliged to reject those offers and the stipend 
for my son at Leipsic, but I will all my life 
think gratefully of the proffered kindness. 

Now I know human perfectibility still bet- 
ter. Now I am positive that such a prepara- 
tory school would suffice to educate the 
children's bodies, minds, and souls to such 
an extent that their powers in all three direc- 
tions would soon appear unusually great and 
they would be able to withstand evil influences 
from without; that the mental powers of chil- 
dren so educated would above all put them in 
a position to' work their own way and, with 
only mediocre further instruction, accomplish 
extraordinary results in the world. For, 
once the powers of the human soul have had 
the proper incitement, they can never be re- 
pressed afterward. Put fetters upon them, 
and they will break them and come out still 
more powerful. Men whose mental powers 
have once been awakened and later repressed, 
have often unexpectedly trodden new paths, 
on which they have accomplished incredible 
results. Decidedly, it will long remain an 
unsolved riddle where human perfectibility 
ends, — so far are we, according to my sincere 
conviction, still removed from the goal. 


Objections to the Early Education of 
my Son 

It is impossible to relate all the objections 
which reason and unreasonableness, kindness 
of heart and meanness, have brought forward. 
I touch only upon those that seem to be sensi- 
ble, and, therefore, have remained in my mem- 
ory. I will refute them as briefly as possible. 

I must distinctly mention here that the 
main objections emanated from people who 
had not yet met the boy. As a rule they took 
everything back as soon as they saw and spoke 
with him. 

When he was eight years old, he became 
known to the world of scholars. 

"He must be sickly and feeble," they said, 
"and the gain of early maturity is as nothing 
in comparison with the child's health." 

Excellent men, who knew the child inti- 
mately, testified over their names that he was 
perfectly well. 

"He will grow sick in his ninth or tenth 


Objections to Early Education 105 

year, then he will drag out a sickly year or 
two, and will die in the eleventh or twelfth 
year of his brief existence." 

He neither grew ill nor died. 

"He, no doubt, passes most of his time at 
the study-table, and that cannot be good for 

Men, who knew better, made public decla- 
ration that he passed less time at the table 
studying than almost any child. 

"He does not enjoy his childhood!" 

Others, — not I, — were loud in asserting 
that it would not be easy to find a happier and 
a merrier child. 

"He is too much left to himself!" 

Yet it became daily better known that I 
used to take him with me while he was still 
a mere infant, and introduced him into all 
kinds of society. 

"He will grow too serious!" 

To this the highest authorities testified that 
upon occasion, when it was required, he could 
become very serious, but that the moment 
that was no longer necessary, he was childish- 
ly happy, nay, could be wanton and naughty, 
just as any well-brought-up child may be. 

"Children's amusements must annoy him!" 

106 The Education of Karl Witte 

Guthsmuths and others went on record as 
affirming that he took active part in all the 
games of children, and gamboled about and 
played with children with visible joy. 

"He will never know how to get along with 

Children who became acquainted with him 
would rather play with him than with any 
other child, because he demanded nothing un- 
reasonable of them, did not spoil their things, 
and yielded pleasantly. 

"He will be proud, vain, self-willed, and 
will look down contemptuously upon his 

His playmates stopped envying him his 
knowledge, and tolerated the respect and love 
which he, on that account, enjoyed from their 
parents and other relatives, only because he 
was so modest and unpretentious, and not in- 
frequently tried to learn from them what they 
knew better than he. 

He never paraded his knowledge, and there 
could be no thought of boasting. 

"He is being educated just for the study- 
table, and so he will feel himself out of place 
in society, and will not know how to behave 

Objections to Early Education 107 

But he was liked as much at court as in 
peasants' cabins, in the house of the wealthy 
merchant as of the minister, in the society of 
the refined landed proprietor as of the honest 
burgher, all insisted that he fitted into their 
circle as though he had been brought up for 

"In his thirteenth to fifteenth year, when 
he reaches the age of puberty, he will grow 
weak, will fade away and die!" 

All that did not happen, but, on the con- 
trary, he grew very strong, blossomed like a 
rose, and continued to live. 

"If he survives that critical period and car- 
ries away no bodily harm, he will none the 
less be mentally affected. He will stand still, 
and of what use will it then be that he former- 
ly advanced so rapidly." 

He was not mentally affected, but kept mak- 
ing rapid progress as before. 

"He will have a mind for nothing but learn- 
ing and dry languages. What is beautiful and 
pleasing will forever remain a matter of in- 
difference to him. What an irretrievable loss 
for him!" 

Indeed, indeed, if it were only true! But 
even as a child did he love the beautiful in 

108 The Education of Karl Witte 

Nature, in the world of man and beast, as 
well as in the works of the great authors and 
poets, and he was quick in finding and point- 
ing it out. Later on he recited and read ex- 
ceptionally well, as most cultured people 
asserted. For that reason and because of the 
joy with which he took part in social games, 
or directed them, he was much sought for in 
elegant society, and especially by young men 
and women of refinement. 

Now he writes both prose and poetry with 
indescribable ease and, as I am assured, not 
without success. 

The last objection which I shall mention 
came from St. Petersburg. It was the only 
one which for a time perplexed me, because 
it referred to too remote a future for me to be 
able to refute it by anything in the present. 
And yet I did not dare to present the future 
all too favorably to myself. Besides, the ob- 
jection came from one whom I respected 
equally as a philosopher and as a sensible, ex- 
perienced, and well-meaning man, who loved 
me and mine, and communicated his misgiv- 
ings to me in confidence, without trying ma- 
liciously to set the world of scholars against 
me and my work. 

Objections to Early Education 109 

Kollegienrath von Jakob, formerly my 
teacher as Professor of Philosophy at Halle, 
later my friend and baptismal witness of my 
last child, wrote me under July 23, 181 1, 
when Karl was eleven years old, as follows : 

As regards your son, I can easily understand how such 
a child may cause his parents great pleasure, which is the 
more agreeable to me, since these parents are my friends, 
whom I love. Yet I must confess to you that my 
pleasurable sensation has not been without an admix- 
ture of regret, for I am not yet convinced that this 
marvelous precocity will be an advantage to your child, 
from which he will be happier and more perfect than 
other men. I am certainly convinced that your skill 
and endeavor are mainly responsible for the early devel- 
opment of the child's powers. Just as certain it appears 
to me that your son has extraordinary natural gifts, 
which willingly follow the incitement of the paternal 

But if this early development is to give your son last- 
ing advantages, it must proceed proportionately. The 
power and knowledge which your son has received up 
to his ninth or eleventh year, another young man of 
talent attains only in his fifteenth to nineteenth year. 
The increase of mental powers generally takes place up 
to one's twenty-first year, after which knowledge and 
experience may be added, but hardly a greater reasoning 
power. If now your son's reasoning power continues 
to increase in the same proportion from his ninth to his 
twenty-first year, he will indisputably stand out for the 
rest of his life as a very exceptional man. But let us 
assume that the degree of his reasoning becomes fixed 

no The Education of Karl Witte 

in his fourteenth year. If so, he will in his twenty-first 
year be no further advanced than other men of his age, 
except, perhaps, that he will have some more knowledge. 
Your son would, then, be admired up to his eighteenth 
or twentieth year, after which he would all of a sudden 
be reckoned among the class of all other men. 

I now must submit to your consideration the effect 
which the continued admiration of what is extraordinary 
in him, which cannot help affecting him, must produce 
upon him, and what his sensations will be, if in his 
twentieth or twenty-first year he sees the admiration van- 
ish and finds himself counted among ordinary men. This 
consideration would fill me with great anxieties, if I were 
the child's father. A man who has exercised public at- 
tention from his childhood, must feel it hard when he 
is no longer so highly regarded. Those, my dear friend, 
are my misgivings in regard to the educational system 
which you have chosen. You know that I am in the 
habit always to express my thoughts freely and openly, 
and I especially like to do so toward persons whom I 
respect and love. 

I answered him before long, saying that 
what he was afraid of might be true, but that 
I, for good reasons, had no such fear, and that 
I would use the proper precaution, so that it 
would not harm Karl much, if, indeed, it 
should happen: that three years hence, at my 
son's fourteenth year, I would write him 
(Professor von Jakob) openly and honestly, 
as is my wont, about further developments. If 
his misgivings came true I would not hide it 

Objections to Early Education in 

from him, but, in the contrary case, he must 
allow me to announce the truth to him in my 
name and in the name of my son. 

On June 22, 18 14, when my son was within 
ten days of fourteen years, I wrote him as fol- 

But first of all concerning your opinion of my son! 
Your idea that the degree of his intellect might become 
fixed in his fourteenth year and he would not advance 
any further, therefore would cease being admired in his 
twentieth or twenty-first year and so would become ill- 
tempered, is exceedingly clever; and I must confess to 
you that no other man made that objection to me, where- 
fore it at first perplexed me very much. I am one of 
those few who do not try to reason away what at a 
future day may cause them an unpleasantness. It may 
be that things will happen as you think, but so far it 
does not seem likely. (1) My son will be fourteen 
years old on the first of July, and he is still visibly gain- 
ing in intellectual powers. (2) He is still extremely 
modest, and does not wish to be admired, or, rather, does 
not notice that he is admired. 

I, therefore, hope that he will not so soon come to a 
standstill, or that, if it occurs, he will grieve less than 
would a vain young man about the cessation of admira- 
tion, so that nothing will be lost, whereas much will be 
won — a careful education, a mass of information, early 
experiences, knowledge of the world, acquaintance with 
refined society through his travels and through the re- 
spectful and kind reception accorded him in the best 

Neither of us can decide the matter, — it lies "in the 

112 The Education of Karl Witte 

lap of the blessed gods," but probability is much more 
on my side now than three years ago. 

Thus this last objection, which, for the 
reasons mentioned, caused me more anxiety 
than any other, has been happily overcome. 
Thank Heaven, if I had to answer that letter 
to-day, I would do it with greater calm and 
with more joyful gratitude toward God, for 
what I wrote on that twenty-second of June is 
as fully true to-day as then. Indeed, it seems 
to me that I could now say more for me and 
my son. 


Did my Son Profit from his Early 
Education ? 

Certainly! And in many essential ways. 

One of the main foundations of his educa- 
tion was training for piety and morality. He 
saw in everything God, — his Father and the 
Father of all. He honored and loved every- 
thing about him, down to beasts and plants, 
as his fellow-creatures, consequently to some 
extent as his brothers and sisters. He, there- 
fore, strove to stand higher and higher on the 
great ladder of gradations, but without any 
envy and contempt for other beings. On the 
contrary, he respected them sincerely and 
loved them tenderly. He had deep compas- 
sion for those whom he thought to be under 
him. He endeavored to raise himself only 
through the instruction of his parents, through 
intercourse with cultured people, and through 
his own industry, and all those means were 


114 The Education of Karl Witte 

dear to him, quite contrary to the manner of 
ordinary children. 

He spoke with God as with his friend, 
thanked Him for His gifts and His kindly 
guidance, asked for His further aid in his af- 
fairs and referred every agreeable occurrence, 
every pleasure which he enjoyed, to Him, 
the All-good, the giver of joys. In the har- 
monica, as in the blossoming rose; in 
Raphael's painting, as in the song of the 
thrush; in the mountains of Saxon Switzer- 
land, as in the blade of grass ; in spiritual man, 
as in the cleverness of his dog — everywhere 
he saw and felt God. 

He prayed often and eagerly, but prefera- 
bly when left alone, or in the presence of only 
his parents, reluctantly before a third person. 
That one may be able to judge his manner of 
praying, I communicate a prayer which, in 
its fundamental idea, I have frequently heard 
him recite. But he prayed differently in the 
different conditions and situations of life. If 
we were on the point of traveling, he begged 
God to protect us further, and thanked Him 
for His previous aid. If we were somewhere 
visiting, he prayed God richly to reward our 
friends for their kindness, and so forth. If 

Profit from Early Education 115 

one of us, his parents, or his friends, was ill, 
he prayed for his recovery. Here is the gen- 
eral scheme of it: 

Karl's Heartfelt Prayer, Evening and Morn- 
ing, with Variations, According to Times 
and Circumstances 

"I thank you, O God, for having given us 
such a good night. Give us also a good day! 
Reward my parents for the good education 
which they have given me heretofore! Help 
them to continue to give it to me in the future! 
Preserve them for me safe and sound for a 
long time to come! Thanks for the many 
joys which I have daily been enjoying through 
them and through other men! Assist me to- 
day to be well-behaved, obedient, and dili- 
gent! Make me choose a vocation which 
will be the most useful for me and for my 

"Keep me from avarice, pride, impure 
thoughts, and lying! Give us the pleasant, if 
it is salutary for us ! Give us also that which 
seems evil to us, if it is good for us, even if 
we ask you to avert it from us! Teach us to 
bear wrongs! Reward those who have done 

n6 The Education of Karl Witte 

much for me! Be good to all men, especially 
to those who suffer!" 

This principle of a pious and moral educa- 
tion, the detailed acquaintance with what is 
most instructive in the Old, and especially in 
the New Testament, most of all with the life 
and teachings of Jesus, in the best extracts 
and writings, laid a very solid foundation for 
his future rectitude and kindness of heart. 
The contemplation of the Deity in all His 
creations, the frequent, intimate conversation 
with Him, kept his own constant attention 
upon himself, so that he did not easily allow 
himself to do any wrong or to be led into it by 
anybody else. His heart was and remained 
so innocent that very sensible people called 
him as pure as an angel. 

For that reason he would do nothing in our 
absence that he was forbidden to do. He 
would say that God sees it all and should not 
be offended. Occurrences of the kind I am 
going to relate were common and, in the na- 
ture of things, had to happen. 

We were once visiting Pastor E. at L. Next 
morning, at the coffee-drinking, Karl care- 
lessly spilled some of his milk on the table. 

Profit from Early Education \\"J 

The law was that in such a case he was to be 
punished by getting nothing more to eat or 
drink, except bread and salt. 

He was very fond of milk. The E.'s had on 
that occasion made it particularly sweet for 
him and had given him a piece of fine cake 
with it, because they had become exceedingly 
fond of him. Karl suddenly grew purple in 
his face, was very much embarrassed, and 
stopped drinking. I knew well why, but I 
pretended I did not see it. 

The E.'s, too, saw it, and encouraged him to 
finish his milk. He declined, and finally 
admitted that he could not go on drinking, 
because he had carelessly spilled some on the 
table. They naturally assured him that that 
did not make any difference, and that he 
should go on drinking his milk. I kept quiet, 
and purposely busied myself with picking up 
our things. Karl could not be moved, so that 
the E.'s finally, from their great love for the 
child, grew angry at me, because they imag- 
ined that I had given him the command by a 

I then sent Karl out, and explained to them 
how it all was. But there was no use. They 
insisted that it was against nature for a healthy 

1 1 8 The Education of Karl Witte 

child, who had a good appetite, to decline 
sweet milk with cake, because a law forbade 
him to do so, on account of a little transgres- 

"Just go away, and he will drink his milk!" 

"Very well," I replied, "I will go away, in 
order that you may see that his behavior flows 
from his soul and is not forced by me, but on 
the one condition that you later tell me the 
whole truth, how it has all happened. I prom- 
ise you in advance that I will not reprove him 
if he should drink the milk." 

They promised me that they would tell me 
all about it. 

Now Karl was called in, and I went away 
under some pretext. The E.'s did their best 
to make him eat and drink, but in vain. They 
sweetened his milk still more. But that did 
no good. They told him that they would fill 
up the cup as before, so that I should not 
notice the difference, and they offered him 
other cake, with the sophical remark, "The 
law cannot forbid this!" They particularly 
directed his attention to the fact that I should 
not find out anything about it. Karl re- 
mained unperturbed, and he repeated: 

"Even if my father does not know it, God 

Profit from Early Education 119 

does, and that is the main thing. It would 
certainly be a deception if I should partake 
of other milk and cake." 

They reminded him that he had to take 
a long walk and that he needed the proper 
sustenance for it. He insisted that bread and 
salt made red cheeks, and would give him the 
required strength. 

They finally saw themselves obliged to call 
me in, and they told me, with tears in their 
eyes, what had happened. I acted as coolly 
as I could, kissed Karl, and said to him: 

"Dear Karl, you have accepted the punish- 
ment of your own free will, and you wanted 
to take it honestly. For that reason, and for 
the sake of our intended walk and the re- 
quest of our friends, I want you to consider 
it finished. Go on eating your cake and 
drinking your milk! You have fulfilled the 
law. I free you from everything." 

Now Karl gratefully and gladly partook 
of the offered food. The E.'s could not un- 
derstand how it was possible for a child of 
six years to have such self-control as to deny 
himself a favorite dish, under the above-men- 
tioned circumstances and with his good appe- 

120 The Education of Karl Witte 

They did not know sufficiently the high 
power of a pure piety and the resulting mor- 
ality, for with it much more can be done, 
without it but little. 

A second principle was the development 
and strengthening of his body and, as much 
as possible, its separate powers. Here also 
naturally belong the sharpening and strength- 
ening of the senses. 

A third principle was, from the very be- 
ginning, the highest development of his men- 
tal powers, in all their several capacities — 
reason, acute perception, wit, memory, fancy, 
and so forth. I have already said something 
of this, but I will now discuss it at greater 

Here belongs the acquisition of a literary 
language, with correct thinking, questioning, 
answering, retorting, etc., which so pleasantly 
surprised people. It was for this reason that 
his company was enjoyed even before he had 
learned the least thing about the languages or 
sciences. How many splendid pleasures have 
thus been granted to Karl, and how much he 
has heard, seen, and learned by it! 

The most cultured men of the regions where 
I happened to sojourn or to visit, gladly 

Profit from Early Education 1 21 

showed or had shown to the child anything 
that would cause him pleasure, and thus his 
childhood, on account of the very goodness of 
his heart, passed under the noblest enjoy- 
ments and constant instruction. 

It was in his sixth year that his linguistic 
instruction began, and from his clear convic- 
tion that he needed it for his welfare, from 
the employment of a proper and simple meth- 
od, as well as from a cautiously chosen se- 
quence of the same, his acquisition of foreign 
languages became a not very difficult struggle 
with single words and their forms. In fact, 
his exercises in the reading of foreign lan- 
guages soon grew to be for him what the 
exercises in reading German had been — a most 
agreeable entertainment, a pleasant pastime, 
during which it did not even occur to him that 
he was learning uncommonly much. 

The instruction in the sciences had long 
been prepared, by discussions, visits to a thou- 
sand memorable things, by journeys, by stories 
from ancient and modern history, and by his 
own reading in all the languages known to 

He was ever anxious to know more, and 
eagerly asked for what has to be imparted to 

122 The Education of Karl Witte 

other children with the greatest difficulty. 
He studied ancient and modern geography, 
natural history in all its branches, mathemat- 
ics, physics, and chemistry, and he studied 
them so thoroughly that he received his de- 
gree of Doctor of Philosophy before he was 
fourteen, after having previously obtained 
very flattering certificates. A year later he 
became a member of the Society of Natural 
Sciences in the Wetterau. He was then able 
to live in the beautiful region of the Rhine, 
and to study jurisprudence with its ancillary 
sciences so thoroughly that when he was but 
sixteen he was honorably advanced to the 
degree of Doctor of Laws. Then he traveled 
a great deal, lived for a longer time in Berlin, 
had a mass of pleasant and some very un- 
pleasant experiences, was treated by many 
noble men with love, by a few mean ones with 
malice, received from his king the high favor 
of a two years' scientific journey, and could 
use the interim to prepare himself theoretic- 
ally and practically for that honorable and 
useful commission. 


Should Children be Left to Themselves 
up to their Seventh or Eighth Year? 

It is a very natural question, "At what period 
should we begin to instruct our children?" 
It has become fashionable to answer, with 
Rousseau, "From the seventh or eighth year." 
To all those who answer thus, I have nothing 
to say but this : "Watch the children who have 
so long remained without instruction or even 
without an education, and see what has be- 
come of them. You will generally find that 
they have turned out to be self-willed, violent, 
even ignorant creatures, slaves to their desires 
and vices. If you wish to have such children, 
good and well, — do as those parents have 

I once spoke to a man who claimed to know 
all about education and who expressed himself 
contemptuously about my son who had at 
such an early age been trained to external and 
internal good manners. 


124 The Education of Karl Witte 

"No," said he, "that shall not happen with 
my son. He is to enjoy his childhood. Up to 
his eighth year he is to do as he pleases, being 
left only to his nurse and to his mother." * 

"Then you will have little to educate in 
him later," I quickly retorted. 

The outcome showed that I was right. 
Though the boy possessed excellent mental 
capacities, he turned out to be nothing but an 
ordinary man with many faults. Had he 
been simple-minded, his father, through his 
own fault, would have made a fool of him. 

It may be objected that there are great men 
who must have traveled that same path. In- 
deed, there are, but they are rare. Only be- 
cause they discovered themselves and attracted 
the attention of others they and their early 
lives became known, and the foolish conclu- 
sion was drawn that that was the right way. 
But one will always, or at least most frequent- 
ly, find in them dark sides as well as bright 
ones, for the early acquired and deeply root- 
ed faults are very hard to get rid of. It would 
be an easy matter for me to find some humili- 
ating defect in any great man who has been 

1 This mother lived entirely for society, so the child was 
left in the care of servants. 

Should Children be Left to Themselves? I2£ 

brought up in that way; but I refrain from 
doing so, because it would be wrong, in the 
manner of evil-minded persons, to try to drag 
great men into the dust 

He who advocates that method of education 
as the best, overlooks the fact that a man with 
very great capacities, — a real genius — will al- 
ways succeed and become something great, 
but that all those who have only mediocre or 
humble capacities will be ruined, and there 
are infinitely more of these than of geniuses. 
One forgets to observe how noble, sublime, 
and useful such a genius might have become, 
if he had been properly guided and educated 
from the start. 

The same man who, on account of the 
bad sides in his character, had risen to eighty 
degrees, by careful guidance and beneficently 
molded circumstances, might have risen to a 
hundred — that is, to the highest degree of 
possible human perfection, and that, too, on 
the good side of him. 

If a child is left to himself or to the servants, 
he naturally associates with other children in 
the street. At first only with those of neigh- 
bors, then with their friends and acquaint- 
ances, and finally with all children, for man 

126 The Education of Karl Witte 

is a social being, and children as a rule prefer 
children's society. Then they like to play, 
and play in the open rightly pleases them 
most, because God has blessed the air with so 
many refreshing, strengthening, exhilarating 
elements. Therefore the child feels happiest 
in the open, especially if he can there play 
with other children. 

Had I to choose, I would myself, in spite of 
the great dangers connected with being in 
the street, prefer it to the constant staying in 
the room. I am not talking of Berlin rooms. 
These, as a rule are high, airy, bright, pleas- 
ant, large, and, if the parents do right, may 
act as small play halls for the children. No, 
I am talking of rooms in small towns or in the 
country, where the whole family is usually 
stuffed together in a small, low, narrow, damp 
basement, filled with all kinds of utensils. 

Here the children waste away, their power 
of digestion is diminished, their blood creeps 
along, instead of leaping, their cheeks grow 
pale, their eyes become dimmed, and the fire 
of their spirits slowly goes out. Stomach, 
head, and teeth begin to ache, there follow 
indisposition and ennui, and, in their wake, 
contrariness, stubbornness, a spirit of opposi- 

Should Children be Left to Themselves? 127 

tion, or even servility, dullness, prejudice, and 
short-sightedness. The healthy street urchin 
may some day do something right. Often he 
takes his own peculiar course and breaks new 
paths, whereas such a dwarfed little man as 
the room-dweller is generally good for noth- 
ing but a house-savant. In that vocation he 
finds the familiar surroundings and remains 
bodily and spiritually in his element. 

Yet I do not overlook the great dangers that 
await the boy amidst his playmates in the 
street. How could I overlook them? I have 
myself observed and anxiously watched them. 
I will not speak here of the secret temptations 
for masturbation, the most terrible of juvenile 
vices, of the incitements for disobeying the 
parents and showing them disrespect, of de- 
ception and even thieving, and so forth. They 
occur, indeed, only too often, and their con- 
sequences are appalling. But I wish to speak 
only of that which takes place openly, during 
the playing in the street. 

In some places, among others at G., where 
the large stone slabs near the houses favor 
many children's games, one constantly sees 
children gambling for money. They are often 
so poor that one would feel like giving them 

128 The Education of Karl Witte 

alms, and yet they play for pennies and three- 
pence, and win from or lose dimes to chil- 
dren whose parents are rich. Many a time I 
have called out to them, "Youthful gamblers, 
old deceivers or beggars!" If it has done 
good only once! Besides, I have hardly ever 
walked through the town without seeing two 
or three in a fight. This at first begins with 
some little dissension, which passes over to 
scolding and cursing, and ends in fighting, in 
kicking, throwing stones, etc. "Fury changes 
everything into weapons," says Virgil. 

With mortal fear I have watched such 
fights, and have done all in my power to stop 
them. But I have at last become more in- 
different, for I thought of myself as of one 
with weak nerves who is worried at the very 
thought that somebody might just then be 
struggling in death agony. He then has not 
a calm moment in his life, for he must always 
say to himself, "Now somebody is again strug- 
gling in death agony." Just the same happens 
to a philanthropist during a fight. He must 
at last become indifferent to it, or he will neg- 
lect his business in his eternal attempts to 
make peace. 

Should Children be Left to Themselves? 129 

In some places there has grown up the cus- 
tom of throwing sand. It begins in jest and 
ends in the most terrible earnest, for, if one 
happens to turn around just as the other is 
throwing, he gets the sand, with the splinters 
and pebbles, which the other has hurriedly 
picked up, straight into his eyes. One is lucky 
if it only causes pain, and the eye does not suf- 
fer from it. As a rule, it leads to the heaviest 

In other places snowballing is indulged in 
in the winter. There would be no objection 
to it, were it only kept within bounds. Throw- 
ing soft snowballs is a merry jest, productive 
of agility, quickness, attention, and sturdiness. 
But the balls grow harder and harder. Many 
boys knead them for a long time with their 
hands, so as to make them small and moist, 
then let them lie in rows and get frozen, and 
finally take them secretly to the place where 
they expect to find their acquaintances. Such 
a snowball causes pain in the back or the chest, 
but what if it strikes the face or an eye? And 
the boy who has brought it along is sure to 
throw it with all his might and at as close a 
range as he can get. 

130 The Education of Karl Witte 

More than once have I seen the blood flow 
freely on such an occasion, or the nose or eye 
injured for life. 

How often have I been a witness when chil- 
dren in a sham battle have accidentally caused 
bad injuries or have been incited to violent 
fights from which such injuries resulted. I 
still think with horror of a pupil, — I will call 
him Mueller, — -who played at H., near the 
parade grounds, close to the high school, with 
his companions. The grounds are surrounded 
by a wall, and trees and buildings are not far 
off. Mueller for a long time ran deftly 
among these objects without hurting himself. 
I was afraid for him, but he ran too fast and 
was pursued too closely, and I was too far 
away to stop him with my voice. 

Now his pursuers were upon him. He 
wanted to get away from them by running 
into the school building. One side of the door 
was open, the other was closed, being barred 
at the top and bottom. Mueller ran as fast 
as he could, and turned his head in order to 
get in through the open side. But he was too 
close and so ran with all his might against the 
projecting bar which wab studded with nails. 
At the same moment the blood ran in streams 

Should Children be Left to Themselves? 131 

down his face, and he fell to the ground with 
a cry of anguish. 

I have often tried to find out why this boy 
had his hand or foot maimed, why that 
boy was crippled, a third one had disfiguring 
tumors or cuts in his face, a fourth one had a 
growth on his eye, a fifth was, perhaps, bereft 
of an eye, and I have learned that all this was 
caused in the street. The children had natur- 
ally concealed the occurrence from their 
parents, and thus had prevented the timely aid 
of a surgeon, of whom, through their parents' 
fault, they are nearly always in fear. 

It will be noticed that I know all the mis- 
chief, and that I do not take it lightly, but I 
must repeat my conviction: If I should have 
to choose, I would, in spite of the above-men- 
tioned great dangers, which come from being 
in the street, prefer it to the eternal staying in 
the house. All those who are lucky enough 
to survive are far better off than the effemi- 
nate house-dolls who are terrified at the very 
sight of a soft snowball, and whom a drizzle 
or a cool wind puts on the sick-bed. 

I say, then, Woe to the father or educator 
who is so foolish as to say: "My son shall do 
up to his eighth year as he, pleases, for up to 

132 The Education of Karl Witte 

that time he shall be left in charge of his 
nurse and his mother (a society woman)." 

From all that it follows that we must begin 
very early to educate our children, and not 
only this but we ought to endeavor to bring 
into the world children as little handicapped 
as possible by defects transmitted by us. Let 
us pay attention to our bodies, our intellects, 
our wills (both on the part of the father and 
the mother) ; let us ennoble the first two and 
control the latter, even at a time when our 
children have not yet been procreated. A 
simple, moderate, sparing, satisfied, happy 
life, with much exercise in the open air, fre- 
quent use of pure water, is, as a rule, the best 
means for getting children whose bodies will 
be entirely sound, and whose capacities of 
heart and intellect are equally desirable. A 
man should train himself as much as possible, 
and should choose for himself a healthy, men- 
tally well-developed, and well-intentioned 
wife, and then the children will be healthy, 
mentally strong, and well-intentioned. 

Here I hear a mass of objections. 

One says, "In my situation I must marry 
for money." Another says, "Without the dis- 
tinguished relatives of my wife I should 

Should Children be Left to Themselves? 133 

never have reached the security which I am 
enjoying." A third, "My wife danced so well 
that I was charmed by her." A fourth, "My 
wife charmed me by her clever and witty con- 
versation." A fifth says, "I loved her, and I 
was looking for a wife for myself, not a moth- 
er for my children," etc. 

I answer, "Gentlemen, you may all be right 
in your way! But if the question is about ex- 
pecting to have fine children, then you are all 

After everything possible has been done for 
one's children before their procreation, one 
should double the precautions during the 
mother's pregnancy. Both parents must co- 
operate in this. 

Moderation and simplicity in food, drink, 
and the enjoyment of corporal love, much 
exercise in the open, pure drinking water, the 
most scrupulous bodily cleanliness, strict exe- 
cution of duties, contentment, joyfulness, and 
faith in God. 

Those are the surest means which the moth- 
er can use, in order to provide the germinat- 
ing child with the most wholesome and useful 
nourishment. If the father sweetens her life 
by thinking, feeling, and acting in the same 

134 The Education of Karl Witte 

way, both may be assured that the Deity will, 
as a rule, give them a healthy child that is, 
at the very least, provided with average capac- 
ities of body and mind. Nothing more is re- 


What we did to Guard Karl against 

Flattery, or, at Least, to Weaken 

its Venom 

KARL was but sparingly praised by us, some 
such expression as, "All right, my son!" or 
"Well done, my boy!" or "You may be right!" 
or "Yes, that is right!" being all I used to 
express my approbation. Some other stimuli 
were employed, for example, small rewards, 
with which, however, charitable purposes 
were invisibly connected ; the noting down of 
his conduct in a book which Konsistorialrath 
Dr. Funk of Magdeburg had presented to 
him; a calm yet pleasant recital of what he 
had accomplished to his mother or one of the 
more intimate friends of the family. But I 
every time said rather less than more. The 
person listening to the account would then 
reply, "Well, that pleases me, Karl! I like 
you that way!" or something of the kind. 


136 The Education of Karl Witte 

Karl had to have done something extraor- 
dinary for his age, before he was patted or 
kissed. That I gladly did, every time he said 
or did something morally good. A fondling, 
a kiss from me, was therefore highly appre- 
ciated by him. But nothing had such an ef- 
fect with him as the assurance I gave him 
especially at a noteworthy moment of his life, 
that he now, no doubt, was standing higher 
than ever in the eyes of God, of other spirit- 
ual beings, and of the best of men, and that 
for some time he had profitably and success- 
fully prepared himself to do something really 
good on earth and later to be employed by the 
Deity for higher and more profitable pur- 

Then his childishly pious eye would smile 
to us, as we may imagine the beatitude of an 
angel who after a noble adventure in the great 
kingdom of God returns to the Highest. Usu- 
ally Karl, after such a conversation, evinced 
still more docility, more industry, more good- 
ness of heart than heretofore. There was 
therefore no need of greater praise, much less 
of flattery. But most people who lived out- 
side our circle did not appreciate this, and 
many did not want to comprehend it. 

Guarding Against Flattery 137 

If, for example, it was noticed that, in spite 
of my enthusiasm, I praised my son with cool 
consideration, trying to lessen the value of 
what he had said or done, and actually suc- 
ceeding in lessening it — they attributed to me, 
instead of God-fearing purposes, such traits 
as harshness, stubbornness, pride, injustice, 
arbitrariness, and even envy toward my own 
child, because they, the mean ones, could not 
rise to the higher purposes. If, again, I told 
the truth about him in his absence, such a 
fatherly feeling was denominated vanity or 

Such wry judgments were often uttered in 
Karl's presence, and for ten or twelve years 
they have tried hard, by sarcasms and expres- 
sions of pity, and by actual incitement during 
my absence to cause a rupture between me and 
my wife. If I had not been absolutely just, 
and at the same time reasonable and kind, 
those wretches would have actually succeeded 
in it. 

Those who were somewhat better said with 
wise mien whenever, in their opinion, I did 
not praise enough, or sent Karl away, as soon 
as I surmised that the cloud of praise would 
be discharged in the boy's presence, "Oh, but 

138 The Education of Karl Witte 

that is not at all right of you! He has de- 
served it, and merited praise encourages 

It made no difference how much I implored 
them to be careful, they knew better, at least 
they thought they knew better, and they only 
broke forth more loudly in Karl's presence. 

It did not take me long to perceive the 
weakness or meanness of many of my friends 
and neighbors. I was therefore careful to 
make my arrangements accordingly. I with- 
drew completely from some, to a great extent 
from others. And as often as, against my ex- 
pectation, it became necessary for the good 
of my child, I had no hesitation to speak 
clearly and earnestly about the dangers of 
fulsome praise. Karl understood me in such 
cases completely, but those silly wiseacres nat- 
urally became only more wily toward me. 

In connection with sugar, cake, coffee, beer, 
wine, and other dainties the same thing took 
place. But my close friends, partly better, 
partly more educated men, were exceedingly 
useful to me in this matter. They understood 
what I wanted, and magnanimously offered 
a helping hand. I needed only to give them a 
hint, and they worked into my hands. 

Guarding Against Flattery 139 

If my wife or I was dissatisfied with Karl, 
they never defended him, but, on the contrary, 
treated him with some coolness. If we gave 
a friendly utterance about him, he was hearti- 
ly fondled by them, but they did not overflow 
with praise. 

As long as he was very small and had 
learned little or nothing, we accomplished our 
aim by means of our unfailing device, the re- 
cital of short, purposely invented, stories with 
a moral. 

But when he could recite with expression, 
when, to the astonishment of many men, he 
could do mental calculations, when he could 
read rapidly and very well, and even began 
to understand French, I had to have recourse 
to other means as well. 

The highest from the beginning and for all 
time remained God and His visible counter- 
part among men, Jesus. 

In conversations about God I frequently 
showed him how immeasurably deep we stood 
below Him and below those many millions of 
spiritual beings whom we call by the name of 
angels : I showed him that we owed Him our- 
selves, all our bodily and mental powers, our 
fortunes, our education, even the incitements 

140 The Education of Karl Witte 

to do good. On such convictions it is, indeed, 
easy to found humility of spirit and modesty 
in a still childishly pure mind. 

In the person of Jesus we showed him how 
infinitely much a man, even of the highest 
type, may by modesty and humility gain of 
wisdom, mental power, magnanimity, firm- 
ness, kindness of heart, justice, fair-minded- 
ness, faith in God, submission to His will, 
obedience to His commands, patience, and de- 
nial of oneself. 

Thus there arose in his heart the highest 
reverence for God, the strongest, holiest love 
for Jesus, and the eager desire to become like 
Him. My wife Louise or I had only to men- 
tion an incident in the life of Jesus, which in 
some way cast a light on one of His virtues, 
for Karl to understand us at once, and to try 
in a touching manner to apply it himself. He 
naturally found himself always far below the 
Divinity, consequently he was by every com- 
parison, even without any other admixture, 
urgently led on toward modesty. 

Then we told him a great deal about emi- 
nent men. If they excelled in intellect, ability, 
talents, and so forth, we accentuated these so 
clearly and so objectively that the humiliating 

Guarding Against Flattery 141 

conviction of having to climb an immeasur- 
able height up to them must have forced itself 
upon him, though we laid less stress upon that. 
But what information we gave him about 
noble-minded, virtuous men, their God-pleas- 
ing, pious, humanely friendly actions, was im- 
parted, — as indeed it could not, from the state 
of our feelings, be imparted otherwise, — with 
ardor, with holy joy, sometimes even with 
tears. Thus his heart was touched and moved, 
and the desire to act similarly was aroused in 

Whenever small occasions offered them- 
selves, he of his own accord acted as we had 
wished ; if he did not, we reminded him of the 
story and then we were certain not to miss our 

He knew by heart nearly all the poems 
from the golden period of German poetry, 
which inculcated noble actions, sacrifices for 
others, love of man, goodness of heart, mag- 
nanimity, friendship, and so forth. He 
learned them readily and easily, and made 
their contents completely his own. 

The "Lied vom Braven Mann," "Frau 
Magdalis," "Zu Dionys dem Tyrannen 
Schlich," "Rudolph von Habsburg," etc., 

142 The Education of Karl Witte 

were his favorite poems, and he knew them 
all by heart, long though they are. 

Now I ask any sensible man and experi- 
enced educator: Could a boy with all that be- 
come proud, vain, and immodest? 

Not easily! And of a child that is not 
often flattered I would say, Not at all! 

This venom (flattery) was, however, given 
him more and more as time went on. It was 
given to him in many shapes, and so I had to 
think of all kinds of antidotes. 

We once went to the city of Halle, and I 
guessed in advance that in the company with 
whom we were to dine, and in the homes 
where we were to visit, Karl, as usual, would 
be showered with praise. 

So after we had set out for Halle I began 
with Louise, who understood me at once, an 
apparently general conversation about com- 
pliments, laudations, and flattery. We talked 
as though we did not have Karl in mind, but 
in reality kept a close watch on him. Now 
and then I threw in a few words, which I 
expected to affect him more strongly, and 
which he would understand as referring to 

Guarding Against Flattery 143 

He comprehended, as showed itself soon 
afterward, that some men, from a certain 
softness of spirit which is wrongly called 
kindness of heart, like to tell pleasant things 
to another; that evil men frequently do so in 
order to gain advantages for themselves; that 
ignorant people, without being evil, readily 
do the same thing because they have an ex- 
aggerated idea of what they have not learned 
themselves; and that, finally, there are men 
who try to use flattery, because they consider 
it a sign of refinement not to say anything un- 
pleasant to their acquaintances, or, rather, to 
tell them pleasant things, even if they are not 

True praise, I added, is not wordy. It 
finds its expression rather in a tender glance, 
a soft pressure of the hand, a few sincerely 
pronounced syllables, at times even in a mere 
stroking of the cheek, or in a kiss, but above 
all else in love and kindness, or in acceptable 
actions for the good of those who have earned 
the praise. 

As Pastor J. lately did with me, I con- 
tinued, and told a story of how a friend of 
mine, instead of making me compliments for 

144 The Education of Karl Witte 

some mental labor, or flattering me, took par- 
ticular pains to make such remarks as would 
help me to improve that work. 

With such conversation we approached the 
city. I became jocose and said: 

"You will notice at the very gate that peo- 
ple for a mere trifle make compliments, that 
is, say something with which they connect no 
idea at all, or the very opposite idea. Since 
I am in the habit of giving the gatekeeper a 
few cents, he will come leaping out merrily 
and will tell me that he is my humble servant, 
will inquire about my health, and will assure 
me that he is extremely happy to hear of my 
well-being; he will ask what my orders are, 
and will add that he is convinced that I have 
nothing dutiable about me." (I knew the 
man's ways of talking by rote.) "He would 
be considerably surprised," I added, "if to his 
'humble servant' I should say, 'Please, take off 
my boots and shine them for me, for they 
have become dirty on the road,' or if I asked 
him to swear to his assertion that he was ex- 
tremely happy to hear of my well-being; or 
if to his question, 'What are your orders?' I 
should answer, 'Go at once to Professor W. 
and announce our arrival!' or if his superior 

Guarding Against Flattery 145 

would take him to task, 'How is it that you 
are convinced that the pastor has nothing du- 
tiable about him?' 

"Yet that man speaks German," I went on, 
"and good German at that, so he knows what 
his utterances are. You see, one would be 
very much deceived, if one paid attention to 
such words. What is still stranger, is that 
some people feel that the parents are too sen- 
sible and too earnest to have any compliments 
made to them, so they think they can make 
them the compliments through their children. 

"As is well known, most parents love in 
their children not only the higher being that 
God has enclosed in a body and has entrusted 
them with, but also, animal-like, their young 
ones. Thus a man like G. imagines that 
Witte will not be so insensible as to remain in- 
different toward the praise which he bestows 
on Karl. Karl need only keep from doing 
something unseemly, to be extolled with 
swollen cheeks, so that I am ashamed and 
afraid for Karl. For what can the poor boy 
answer to such untruths? He must remain 
perplexed. That is why I like R. and W. 
They praise truly and sensibly. G. gains 
his end with hundreds of parents, but the 

146 The Education of Karl Witte 

children are spoiled by it, for they become 
conceited and believe they know all. 

"It is strangest of all," I continued, "when 
parents want to hear their children praised, 
while an honest man cannot make up his mind 
to please them by doing so. It may be that 
he will pay the tribute of customary polite- 
ness, if the children give half an occasion for 
it. But the honest man will not be induced 
to do more than that. 

"Meanwhile these people try their utter- 
most to get at him, to melt the ice of insen- 
sibility. If the honest man has children of 
his own, they expect to have an easy success, 
if they will praise them unduly. 'He will 
certainly be polite enough to give something 
in return!' they say, and so they lavish praises, 
until one is nauseated and has to remonstrate. 
That stops the praises, but immediately after- 
ward they say, Witte is an uncouth man! I 
praised his Karl so much, but it did not do 
any good. I hoped he would say a word 
about my Fritz or Dorothy, but no! Does 
he imagine he can educate all children? 
There is not much to it anyway! His Karl 
lacks a lot of things which he is much in 
need of. 

Guarding Against Flattery 147 

"They are right there, my boy. Do you 
not think so?" 

Karl assented to it with his whole soul, 
mentioned some things which he needed, and 
named men who had praised him, partly 
without any merit of his, partly away above 
his deserts. 

"I have seen the case," I or Louise added, 
"when two fathers or mothers carried on a 
regular auction sale. One would outbid the 
other in praises, until the conviction was 
forced upon a person that the respective chil- 
dren were half angels, when they were noth- 
ing of the sort For had they been, their 
parents would not have taken these useless, 
even harmful, pains." 

Now we were at the gate. We had no 
sooner stopped, than the gatekeeper, who 
knew the coachman, carriage, and horses well, 
rushed out and started turning the wheel of 
compliments with almost the very words 
which I had predicted. As none of us could 
help smiling, I gave the conversation a joking 
turn by saying, "We have nothing about us, 
unless we ourselves are dutiable. O yes, here 
I have," pointing to Karl, "a little gosling! 

148 The Education of Karl Witte 

So have him appraised! Meanwhile, here is 
the money!" I pressed a little something into 
his hand. We proceeded to the city, and I 
said earnestly, "So all that has cost only two 

The consequences of that conversation were 
obviously good, but I must make a remark 

One must not imagine that such a conver- 
sation with Karl or in his presence would 
have had the desired result in itself. I am, 
on the contrary, convinced that without a pre- 
vious long, careful education of mind and 
heart; without repeated and continuous pa- 
ternal efforts; without the aid of our excellent 
friends; without deep-seated moral and pious 
motives, all that attempt would not have suc- 
ceeded in penetrating the hardened shell, and 
would have produced weak, effaceable im- 
pressions upon the intellect and the heart. It 
is about the same as with a wagon whose 
freight is calculated for three horses. If only 
one were hitched, it would work itself to 
death without moving the wagon an inch. To 
make it move, and move with ease, all three 
horses must be employed. Then it is sure to 
travel well. 

Guarding Against Flattery 149 

Since many people are convinced that Karl 
has always been perfect; that he could not 
perceive any faults or mistakes in himself; 
that he must have become conscious of being 
far in advance of other children; and that 
that must have driven him to pride and van- 
ity, I shall remind them of what has been 
mentioned before. We frequently referred 
in his presence to what he would have turned 
out to be, if he had grown up without careful 
training and instruction, and what many a 
child would have developed into, if he had 
been brought to our house at his birth, and 
we had accepted and educated him as our own 
child. We also explained to Karl how much 
more advanced in every respect he would be, 
if he had always been attentive and industri- 
ous. But he knew only too well, how often 
he had failed in one respect or other. His 
memory and his "Book of Conduct" told him 

If, during such a talk, I should happen to 
see a shepherd boy, who had to pasture the 
cattle, instead of being at school — and I took 
care to arrange our walk in such a way as to 
see him — I would say, with deeply felt pity, 
"The poor boy! He should now be in school 

150 The Education of Karl Wltte 

learning something, but he must pasture cattle 
in order to earn a living, for his father has 
nine children and is too poor to be able to 
feed him, if he does not take the place of a 
hired hand. You know, my son, how cleverly 
this boy talks! What could not have been 
made of him, if he had been properly brought 
up!" Then I spoke to the shepherd boy, and 
directed his attention to how much he was 
losing by not going more frequently to school, 
and urged upon him to attend school more 
regularly in winter. 

That never missed its aim. Karl's heart 
was sincerely moved to pity, and his intellect 
saw clearly that he owed the little he was and 
knew, not to himself, but to his parents. 

How would it have been possible to save 
him from the venom of flattery without such 
precautionary measures? I dare say, but few 
children grow up with as much flattery as has 
been showered upon him, yet, thank Heaven, 
it has caused him no harm, as all know who 
are more closely acquainted with him. 

"He must be proud," said the most sensible 
and excellent Konsistorialrath Dr. Senf, of 
Halle, before he knew him. "He must be!" 
he said again and again, "for with his ad- 

Guarding Against Flattery 151 

vantages it is against human nature not to be 
proud!" I kept repeating, "No, he is not!" 
"He must be," he finally said, with emphasis, 
"or he is a supernatural being." I kept silent, 
for to that no answer could be given. "You 
shall see him," I retorted after a while. 

I brought the boy to him soon afterward. 
He immediately fondled him with much ten- 
derness, had a long talk with him, spoke ever 
in a more fatherly and intimate way to him, 
and finally turned to me and said, "No, he is 
not proud! God knows how you have man- 
aged it!" After I had sent Karl out, I gave 
Dr. Senf an account of the above-mentioned 
method. He nodded friendly assent from 
time to time, and finished by saying: 

"Yes, it is possible to do so in that manner! 
I now believe myself that he is not proud and 
will never become proud. For if, with these 
convictions, he attains still greater reasoning 
power, he will become what is called wise. 
And a truly reasoning, wise man cannot be 

I pass for the present over those innumer- 
able perplexities which were caused to me by 
wealthy and distinguished people of both 
sexes, by regents, their wives, their children, 

152 The Education of Karl Witte 

their entourage; and will mention but one oc- 
currence, at Goettingen, because it best illus- 
trates my anxiety and my way of acting under 
such conditions. 

A director of schools at N., named H., was 
visiting his relatives at Goettingen. He had 
heard and read a great deal about Karl, and 
he had learned still more, after inquiries at 
Goettingen, especially from his relatives who 
were more closely acquainted with us. He 
therefore requested them to invite us to their 
home when he was with them, and to ar- 
range it in such a way that he could examine 
Karl. They readily promised to do this, as 
they knew I should have no objections. 

We accepted the invitation and granted the 
request about the examination. H. in person 
had repeated the latter to me, adding that he 
would gladly examine my son in the languages 
and the various sciences, but preferably in 
mathematics, because that was his favorite 
subject. I granted him everything, making, 
as with everybody else, the one condition that 
he would not praise the boy, or would praise 
him only moderately, if he should be satisfied 
with his knowledge. 

"You may love him," I added, half in jest, 

Guarding Against Flattery 153 

"as much as you wish, but you must not praise 
him! But you are yourself a father and edu- 
cator. My request is therefore not necessary 
with you, and I beg your pardon for it." 

Karl, whom we had purposely sent out, 
came in. H. was soon occupied with him, 
and his talk with him quickly passed into a 
formal examination. 

As I shall have to speak later in regard to 
such tests of his knowledge, I shall merely 
remark that H. was perfectly satisfied with 
him, that he fondled Karl in a fatherly way, 
but judiciously avoided nearly all praise. I 
kept a watch upon him, and so was fairly easy 
in mind. Finally he passed over to mathe- 
matics and proposed to Karl several problems 
in geometry, etc. Karl answered the questions 
with ease, and frequently in more than one 
way. He also put himself at H.'s standpoint, 
accepted his methods of proof, and, without 
being at all familiar with it, applied it to H.'s 
full satisfaction. 

Here a few expressions of praise escaped 
him that I thought were too strong. I, there- 
fore, looked more sharply at him, and he un- 
derstood me and kept silent. 

But the examiner and the examinee entered 

154 The Education of Karl Witte 

the subject more deeply, and as they grew to 
consider each other as friends who loved and 
discussed the same science, they soon lost 
themselves in higher mathematics, even in 
such branches as were not entirely familiar 
to H. 

"Oh, you know more of this than I!" 
escaped his lips, in his pleased surprise. I 
was frightened, but I managed to sound a 
warning note. 

"My son attended the mathematical lec- 
tures last half-year," I said, "and so he has 
not forgotten it yet." 

H. understood me, and held himself in. 
After a while he said to Karl : 

"Now I will close by laying before you 
a proposition over which the great Euler 
brooded in vain for three days. I presume 
that you have not heard of it." 

I was beginning to feel anxious, in case 
Karl should actually solve it, but did not dare 
to let this be noticed, because H.,*who did not 
know me intimately, might have considered it 
as a sign of fatherly pride. And if I should 
have interrupted the conversation — which I 
was inclined to do — he might have thought 
that I was afraid Karl could not solve it, and 

Guarding Against Flattery 155 

that I, from pride, was ashamed because he 
could not. H. then went on to propound the 

"A peasant," said he, "had a field of this 

"When he was near death, he called his 
three sons and directed them so to divide the 
field that each should obtain an equal share, 
each of these to be similar to the whole field. 

"Have you had this proposition, or have 
you read about it?" he asked Karl once more, 
with emphasis. 

Karl answered "No!" and I testified to it, 
because I had always shared his mathematical 
instruction with him. 

Then we gave him time for reflection, and 
H., talking with me in the back of the room, 
declared that it would certainly be impossible 
for him to solve the problem. "I proposed it 

156 The Education of Karl Witte 

to him only to show him that he did not know 
everything yet." 

He had hardly said more than that, when 
Karl called out: 

"I have it!" 

"That is impossible!" H. exclaimed, in per- 

"See for yourself!" Karl said, as he drew 
the lines which he had only sketched before. 
"These three fields are equal to each other 
and similar to the whole field." 

"You must have known the proposition!" 
H. exclaimed, with violence and bitter con- 

Karl felt deeply ashamed, and repeated 
with tears in his eyes, "No!" 

I could not remain silent. I gave him the 
most solemn assurances that Karl had not 
heard of it before, and especially that Karl 
would not be so contemptible as to deny any- 
thing of the sort, or to stick to a lie impu- 

"Then he must be greater than the great 
Euler himself!" H. answered, still in doubt, 
and staring at Karl. 

I anxiously called out from the back of the 
room, where I stood, "Not at all! For you, as 

Guarding Against Flattery 157 

an experienced man, must know," I said, 
pinching his hand, and then laughing, "that 
even blind pigeons sometimes find peas." 

H. understood me, and replied, distract- 
edly, "Of course, indeed!" and immediately 
turning to me, he said in a whisper, "Only in 
this way have you been able so to educate 
a son as to leave him exceedingly modest 
with such knowledge." 

But Karl had in the meanwhile gotten up 
a merry conversation with his neighbor on an 
entirely different subject, and that, justly, 
pleased H. most of all. 


Karl's Toys and the First Steps in His 
Mental Education 

I AM convinced that we cannot begin too early 
to play with a child, and that we may turn 
nearly all objects of life into toys of great 
educational value, if we only go about it in 
the right way. 

Playing with the little child should be an 
easy, pleasing occupation, with which to 
awaken, guide, and strengthen his dormant 
powers. One should begin with the coarsest, 
most sensuous objects, for the finer ones would 
as yet be lost on the child. 

For example, we held our fingers close to 
Karl's eyes, and moved them, now singly, now 
several at a time. He soon noticed them, and 
grabbed at them, but in the beginning usually 
missed them. We did not mind that, but 
brought our hand nearer to his, or his nearer 
to ours. He seized it, happy to have suc- 
ceeded, and drew a finger into his mouth and 


Toys and First Steps in Education 159 

sucked it. Then we pronounced the word 
"finger" slowly, distinctly, and repeatedly, so 
that the unreasoning being might have the 
time to hear it clearly and to conceive it. 
After a few minutes we withdrew our ringer 
from his mouth, and held it once more before 
his eyes, first one, saying, "One finger," then 
two, in the same way saying, "Two fingers," 
and so forth. 

If he grabbed the thumb, we should have 
said, as above, "Thumb." At first, however, 
we avoided his getting hold of it, in order not 
to confuse the still indescribable short-sighted- 
ness of his intellect. When he actually knew 
the fingers, we gave him the thumb, pro- 
nouncing the word at the same time. We 
slowly differentiated the pointer, the middle 
finger, the little finger. In every case the 
road was properly prepared, and the words 
were enunciated loudly, clearly, slowly, and 

Later on we put the fingers to some use 
before his eyes, from mere moving to the 
raising of his hand or an object, and all the 
time did and spoke as above. 

For his hearing we made use perhaps of 
two smooth keys which we struck together 

160 The Education of Karl Witte 

before Karl's eyes and ears alternately, enun- 
ciating the word "Key." If he at last seized 
it, he carried it to his mouth, and we by de- 
grees proceeded farther, holding more keys 
before him and speaking, as mentioned above. 

It will be easily observed that with pru- 
dence and care one may thus turn any object 
into a toy, and I am convinced that one does 
much better to follow this course than to buy 
a mass of toys for the child and leave him to 
an arbitrary use of them, without any pru- 
dent guidance. The unreasoning little people 
may only hurt themselves with them, and 
learn nothing; they pass their time half sense- 
lessly, become tired, irritable, stubborn, and 
throw their toys away, or pound at them; in 
short, they become accustomed to destructive- 
ness, as one, alas, finds only too often. 

This habit of destruction is so bad, that I 
regretfully reflect upon the fact that it clings 
to man for a long time, frequently misguides 
him, and makes it hard for him to rid him- 
self of it. Observant parents will understand 
me, for they must have noticed what a delete- 
rious influence the destruction habit has on the 
intellectual conceptions, as well as on the sen- 
timents of children. 

Toys and First Steps in Education 161 

The child vents his displeasure, — itself 
usually a result of ennui, — on his toys; later 
on, he vents it on what he can reach; at last 
also on his animal and human surroundings. 
Anybody can see what sad consequences this 
must have. 

I should become too prolix if I were to 
mention and explain our educational methods 
in detail. A few hints are all that is needed. 
Some I have already given, and I will give 
a few more now. 

As soon as Karl had reached a certain de- 
gree of perception, we proceeded to another 
stage in the enlargement of his understanding. 
After a while, for example, we brought him a 
twig, and said, "A twig," then we brought a 
leaf from it, and holding it before his eyes, 
we said "A leaf." We alternated twig and 
leaf several times, giving the little fellow time 
to collect his senses, and every time said 
loudly, clearly, and slowly, "A twig, a leaf." 
By degrees we plucked a few more leaves 
from the twig, saying, "One more leaf, one 
more leaf." Then we put two leaves before 
him, saying, "See, Karl! Two leaves!" then 
"Three leaves!" etc. 

At other times we pointed to the twig, 

1 62 The Education of Karl Witte 

which still had a few leaves upon it, saying, 
with clear enunciation and much emphasis, 
"One leaf, two leaf," and quickly correcting 
ourselves, "Two leaves," at last, with the ex- 
pression of surprise, "Many leaves!" 

When the twig was slowly bared of all 
leaves, we switched it in the air, and said, "A 

"See, Karl! Now it is a switch! Now the 
leaves are all gone," pointing to them, "they 
are pulled off, and now it is not a twig, now 
it is a switch!" 

After a while again we would say, "I cut 
the twig from a tree. Come, and I will show 
you where I cut it off!" Then we took him 
in our arms, or by his hand, and led him to 
the tree, from which we had cut the twig, 
so low down that he could easily observe it. 
We fitted on the twig, and later the switch, 
and said, slowly, clearly, and distinctly, "Do 
you see? Here I cut it from the tree," point- 
ing meanwhile to the whole tree. "This is the 
way it stuck to the tree before." 

Then I would, perhaps, say, "Shall I cut 
off another twig?" 

He was sure to answer, "Yes!" 

Now, purposely of course, I would look 

Toys and First Steps in Education 163 

in vain for a knife in all my pockets, re- 
peatedly saying, "I have no knife about me, 
and without a knife I cannot cut the twig 
from the tree." After a few moments : "Wait, 
my child! I will fetch a knife!" 

After I had fetched it, I said, pointing to 
it, "Here I have a knife! Now I can cut a 
twig with it from the tree." 

I did so, significantly raised the twig, and 
said: "Now, the twig is cut off the tree!" and 
after a while, "See, Karl," fitting the twig 
once more to the tree, "here the twig was at- 
tached to the tree." Then, holding it up, to- 
gether with the one cut off before, "Now we 
have two twigs !" 

At first we used to say, "Now we have one 
twig, and one twig more," pointing all the 
time to a twig, "so now we have two twigs." 

Only later we directed his attention to the 
various sizes of trees. We would, for exam- 
ple, first point to a dwarfed tree, saying, "This 
tree is small!" then to a young tree with 
a tall trunk, saying, "This tree is taller," 
finally to an old, tall tree, saying, "This 
tree is very tall." Everything was enun- 
ciated with the proper intonation and with 
the appropriate expression and motion of 

164 The Education of Karl Witte 

the hands. Thus we taught him as play, en- 
tertainment, and pastime, that certain trees 
(this one here, that one there) bore beautiful 
blossoms and good-tasting fruits while other 
trees did not. 

If, by chance, it happened to be an oak, I 
would say, as though wishing to correct an 

"That is an oak! I have not told you right, 
for the oaks bear also fruit, only we, men, 
cannot eat it. Pigs like it very much. You 
shall see for yourself!" 

If acorns could be found, we picked up a 
few, giving them to Karl to take along and 
throw to our pig. If it was before acorn 
time, I would hunt for them for a while, then 
act as though I were deep in thought, and 
finally say: 

"Oh, yes, I happen to think, there are no 
ripe acorns now. Just look up there in the 
tree! There are acorns there! But they are 
still very small. In a few weeks they will be 
larger. Perhaps a few of them will then fall 
down. We will pick them up then and take 
them with us." 

In a similar manner we proceeded with a 
thousand objects all about us; for example, 
with a rose. 

Toys and First Steps in Education 165 

We would break off a branch with several 
leaves, a few buds, a half-opened and a fully- 
opened rose, and would lay the whole before 
him with the words, "Here you have a twig 
off a rose-bush!" Then we took everything up 
in succession: twig, leaves, stems, thorns 
(larger, smaller, straight, crooked), hairs, 
calyx, flower, colored leaves, outer, inner, 
large, small, smooth, curly, curved, folded, 
white, pink, red; the anthers, stamens, pollen, 
the closed bud (which we finally opened up), 
the half-opened, etc. Among other things, 
toward the end, we referred to the smell, 
which was at once observed and compared 
with that of other flowers and plants. 

It will be noticed that the most ordinary 
surroundings furnish a field for play and in- 
struction, which is more than large and rich 
enough to give the child a sufficient choice 
of mental food for the first five or six years 
of his life. 

I must remark here that whoever learns in 
this manner to hear, see, feel, smell, taste, will 
certainly learn it all in the proper way, gain- 
ing therewith so much mental power that also 
his spiritual hearing, seeing, and feeling, as 
well as careful observation and taste will be 
ennobled by it in a startling manner. 

1 66 The Education of Karl Witte 

The above-mentioned method was of impor- 
tance, too, in regard to the child's morality. If 
Karl was dissatisfied or crying, because he 
could not have his way, we only had to say, 
"Just see how queer this is!" showing him 
something that was new to him, in order to 
turn his attention away upon it. He forgot 
his ill temper, and was once more the good, 
merry child. He never went so far as to bawl 
and bellow. 

I hardly ever bought toys, in the ordinary 
sense of the word. This expense I was spared, 
because everything was a plaything to him. 

The best opportunity was furnished by a 
fairly large space in front of my house, which 
I had covered two feet deep with clear pebbles, 
and faced in with flowers, blooming shrubs, 
and trees. This spot was always dry, even 
after days of rain. After an hour's cessation, 
the rain-water disappeared between the peb- 
bles, and the place was again quite dry and 

Here and in the garden, when it was not 
damp, Karl lived and worked amid fair Na- 
ture. At first his attention was directed to all 
the details around him. Later on he observed 
them himself, and showed them to us, partly 

Toys and First Steps in Education \6j 

with the desire of instructing us, and partly 
in order to elicit instruction from us. 

Whenever I, on account of other business, 
was not able to be with him, my wife was near 
by. Whenever she had to attend to some 
housework or to the garden, he stood, sat, or 
walked with her, and both discussed what 
had been done, what was being done, or what 
still had to be done. 

And he not only had the permission openly 
to tell us his opinion pro and con, — of course, 
with due modesty, — but we urged him on to 
do so. We sometimes would purposely make 
small mistakes or overlook something, and 
merrily berated him, if he did not notice our 

Every little work gave us chances for this, 
the cutting of the asparagus, picking of roses 
or fruit, and so forth. If we had found some 
good reason for not doing a certain thing, and 
he reminded us of it, as of something we 
might have forgotten or overlooked, we again 
made good-natured fun of him, saying, "O 
you foolish boy! Do you not understand that 
I did not do it for such and such a reason?" 

Such discussions sufficiently guarded him 
against the presumption, — for which occasions 

1 68 The Education of Karl Witte 

often presented themselves, — of knowing bet- 
ter than we. 

One of his earliest games was with sand. 
I bought him for the purpose a little table and 
chair, when he was about two years old. I 
still have them, and they will remain dear to 
me all my life, because on that chair and at 
that table he advanced from the playing with 
sand to a certificate of perfect maturity for the 

Even into the common and neglected play- 
ing with sand we put much thought and rea- 
son. In educating a second child we would 
arrange many a thing to even better purpose. 
Yet I believe that a hint of what we did will 
do no harm. Mothers who will take the trou- 
ble, will be able to surpass us. So much the 

Since occupations of this kind chiefly fall 
upon mothers, because pressing work keeps 
the father for hours at the desk, etc., I will let 
my wife tell what she did and how she pro- 
ceeded in this matter. 

The travel game, of which she will also re- 
port a specimen, will especially entertain and 
interest such children as have already trav- 
eled. And I wish with my whole soul that 

Toys and First Steps in Education 169 

all children might do so, because nothing has 
such a deep and lasting influence as the fre- 
quent change of domicile and daily surround- 
ings, especially if later one returns to the place 
where one abides. One then sees, hears, ob- 
serves, thinks, judges, and concludes quite 
differently than before. 

If such journeys are frequently and as ob- 
jectively as possible brought back to memory 
by a playful imitation, so much the better. In 
this way the child remembers a hundred 
things and occurrences, which otherwise it 
would soon forget. It thus judges and com- 
pares them with greater acuteness. 

Even very small journeys are strikingly 
useful, especially if they have been properly 
arranged and repeated. The rich in this re- 
spect are far better served than the poor. But 
let me now give his mother's account of some 
of her dealings with our child: 

"Karl had a number of small kitchen-uten- 
sils for toys. As he was a great deal with me 
in the kitchen, and saw me prepare the dishes, 
I explaining everything to him, he was very 
much attracted by this occupation and began, 
at first in play, to imitate it. I soon helped 
him with it, guided him, and used the play, 

170 The Education of Karl Witte 

in order to give him better instruction in vari- 
ous things. Then we bought him larger and 
smaller vessels in which he, in the manner of 
our larder, kept his sand supplies. In one of 
the vessels he called the sand flour, in another 
rice, meal, salt, milk, etc. 

"When the parts were distributed, he could 
choose whether he wanted to be mother or 
cook. If he represented the mother, he could 
order what he wanted to be cooked. I then 
asked a number of questions, and if he could 
not properly answer them, he lost his authority 
and became cook. Then I commanded, and I 
taught him what belonged to this dish or to 
that. For example, he had to bring soup- 
greens from the garden. If, as in the begin- 
ning was often the case, he brought the wrong 
greens, or could not remember a thing that 
he had been told several times, he was dis- 
missed, after getting the reasons for such a 

"After that he could not so soon be cook 
again, but had to be satisfied to be a kitchen 

"We frequently played a kind of drama to- 
gether, which gave him correct ideas about 
many circumstances of life. 

Toys and First Steps in Education 171 

"For example, he was mother and I the 
child. Then he gave his commands, which I 
at times carried out wrongly or not at all. If 
he missed noticing that, he lost his authority. 
But it was not often that he failed to see my 
pretended disobedience. On the contrary, he 
would make earnest and kind remonstrances. 
I promised I would improve, begged to be 
pardoned, but after a while started in again 
to do what I had been forbidden. If he no- 
ticed it, his droll earnestness caused me much 
pleasure. He threatened with severity, and 
occasionally would say, 'Yes, I see, you will 
not turn out well! I cannot love you any 
longer, poor mother that I am!' 

"At times he was teacher and I the child. 
I purposely committed the same mistakes and 
transgressions of which he was guilty. He 
noticed them almost every time, and corrected 
and scolded me. In this way he felt most sen- 
sibly the disadvantages of his own mistakes, 
and learned how to avoid them. I could best 
cure him of his misdemeanors by committing 
them myself when he represented me. 

"If he had been particularly good and 
bright, he was allowed to represent father. 
He then conversed with me, his wife, on all 

172 The Education of Karl Witte 

kinds of subjects, even of our son and his edu- 
cation, when he would make the most start- 
ling observations. Now and then I told him 
that I still noticed many faults in Karl, which 
I adduced one by one. He consoled me, and 
generally concluded with the words, 'Do not 
worry, my dear! Karl will turn out all right 

"I frequently asked his advice about how I 
could cure the child of this or that, and he 
proposed all kinds of appropriate means. 
But when I replied to him, that I had already 
used them all, he answered emphatically, 
Well, if all that did not do any good, give 
him a spanking, so that he may think of it' 

"At other times we played the travel game. 
He had to tell me whither he was going to 
travel, what he wished to see on his journey, 
and whom he would visit. At the same time 
he mentioned by name the places through 
which he was traveling. These were indi- 
cated, in the winter in the room, in the sum- 
mer in the garden, by some special object. 
Thus, for example, if he was traveling to 
Magdeburg, the chest of drawers represented 
Halle, the table — Kiennern, a chair — Bern- 
burg, and the sofa — Magdeburg. I, not far 

Toys and First Steps in Education 173 

away from it, seated on a chair, represented 
Pastor Glaubitz at Klein-Ottersleben, near 

"At first Karl made all the preparations 
for the journey, asking himself, for example, 
if he had taken all the necessary things with 
him, after which he departed from the stove, 
which stood for our home village of Lochau. 
Now he walked, now he rode on his hobby- 
horse, according to whether he, during his 
real journey, had found the road dry or mud- 

"If he fell in with several traveling com- 
panions, as had actually happened on the 
journey, he rode with them in his wagon. 

"The time which he used for walking, rid- 
ing, or driving, to the next station, was in 
every case proportioned to the distances of 
the places, the good or bad roads, the kinds of 
business or entertainments on the way, when I, 
naturally, would make remarks if he seemed to 
arrive too early or too late. He tried to cor- 
rect me, and so forth. 

"At Halle he visited Professor W., with 
whom he held a conversation. On the way to 
Koennern he stopped at an inn, ordered a 
sandwich and a glass of water, paid for it 

174 The Education of Karl Witte 

with slices of a turnip, then arrived at Koen- 
nern, where he visited the family H., to stay 
there over night. 

"The next dinner he ate at Bernburg. where 
he called on several families. Then, an op- 
portunity offering itself, he traveled to 
Magdeburg, and finally reached Klein-Otters- 
leben, where he told me, his friend Glaubitz, 
every noteworthy event of his journey. Such 
journeys were undertaken in every direction. 

"If he had nothing worth while to tell, I 
would laughingly say: 

'Send Peter through the world a-wandering — 
What good it does? He can't recall a thing!' 

"Then I was the traveler, when I told him 
a great many interesting things from the towns 
which we had both visited together. Thus 
we varied the game in every imaginable way. 

"Now and then we both sat down at the 
table. I took the slate, and he was allowed to 
tell me what he wanted me to draw on it. 'A 
man!' would be the first thing he would call 
for. What next?' 'A house!' Then a cat, 
a tree, a dog, a child, and a table. When ev- 
erything was put on the slate according to his 

Toys and First Steps in Education 175 

wish, he wanted to know what the man's, 
child's, and dog's names were, and what they 
were doing there. I would then compose a 
story like this: 

" 'The man's name, my child, is Peter 
Schultz, and he has just had this house built 
for himself. He used to be very poor, but he 
worked industriously and was saving. In this 
way he earned so much money that he was 
able to have the house built. Then he mar- 
ried a good, industrious girl, and after a while 
a child was born to his wife, and his name is 
August. His mother is just now in the kitch- 
en, getting the dinner ready. Do you see the 
chimney smoking? Just a while ago she 
called her husband, asking him, since he was 
done with his work, to fetch August, who was 
playing under a tree, for dinner was ready. 
He might also bring in the dog and the cat, 
to get their dinner too. The good father did 
so, and as the weather was fine, he told mother, 
she might serve dinner in the garden, and so 
he brought the table out' As a rule, he would 
repeat the story to his father at table, express- 
ing, as he had already done to me, his mis- 
givings about this or that, especially about the 
moral and spiritual conduct of the people of 

176 The Education of Karl Witte 

the tale, more particularly the children, we 
contradicting or agreeing with him." 

It will be noticed that even poor people 
can use this method with all kinds of changes 
and improvements, in order to give their 
children a good time and instruct them. 

One of the most profitable toys is a box of 
building blocks. Under intelligent guidance 
such blocks keep children busy and amuse 
them for many years, and they are able to 
learn a great deal by them. There are differ- 
ent kinds, some with which to imitate wood- 
en buildings, others stone buildings. If those 
intended for wooden buildings, barns, stables, 
etc., were so arranged that they could be set 
up in many different ways, they would be very 
useful, especially in the country, where one 
sees almost exclusively wooden structures, for 
the child would be able more easily to imitate 
them. But, as a rule, only one single house 
can be constructed with them, and the parts 
have been too carefully indicated, so that a 
properly guided boy, who had been educated 
to think for himself, to seek and improve, soon 
gets tired of them. Still, they are useful in 
that they give the boy an objective idea of a 
wooden structure and its component parts. 

Toys and First Steps in Education 177 

If one is well-to-do enough to buy several 
of them, and, of course with the consent of the 
boy, rubs off the numbers indicating the cor- 
responding parts, their usefulness is much in- 
creased thereby. One could also buy wind- 
mills and water-mills, as well as other imita- 
tions of important things which the child has 
seen, such as sluices, saltworks, steam-engines, 
etc. ; but the main condition should be that 
they could all be taken to pieces and set up 
again. The directing numbers should also be 
removed at an early time. 

If, in putting the parts wrongly together, 
something should get broken, father and child, 
and later on the child himself, should manage 
to fix it, and the child will thus invisibly be 
led to self-help and mechanical work. 

Incomparably more important is a box of 
building-stones (made of wood). Those that 
I bought were an inch each way, some of them 
two, three, four, up to twelve inches long. 
Some of them were a quarter of an inch 
square, and six, eight, or twelve inches long, 
to be used in building the roof, as in ancient 

We had, besides, keystones and obliquely 
cut stones, so that we could build a stone 

178 The Education of Karl Witte 

bridge with approaches. Nor was there any 
lack of stones for a breastwork. 

With these Karl built everything, at first 
with my aid or the aid of his mother, then by 
himself: large and small houses, palaces (par- 
ticularly such as he had seen), outhouses, 
barns, stables, bridges, churches, towers, 
fences, arbors, etc. Every building was pro- 
vided with men, cattle, or utensils ; the barns 
with corn or straw, the lofts with hay, the 
woodhouse with wood, the cellar and the lard- 
ers with other things. 

Hay and straw could be found in plenty; 
the garden furnished provisions, his mother 
gave them to him, or he himself took sand, 
earth, pebbles, and so forth. Men and animals 
were cut out of turnips, etc., and provided 
with wooden legs. The utensils were gener- 
ally made of paper. 

Karl was then master of the house. He 
had a wife, children, and servants; also horses, 
cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and 
so forth, which he attended to himself. He 
watched everything with great care, and kept 
in mind what was wanting. 

One may easily understand what a wide, I 
may say what an immeasurable and yet highly 

Toys and First Steps in Education 179 

fruitful, field is thus opened for parents and 
children. A properly brought-up child will 
pass hours each day building, for he will be 
thinking all the time, trying to discover some- 
thing new, and instructing himself in a variety 
of ways. 

Thus Karl once discovered the art of build- 
ing with interstices, gaining thereby double 
and treble the use for his stones. His joy at 
this was very great, and his building opera- 
tions increased immensely. Naturally we 
gave appropriate approval to his invention. 

However few the toys were which Karl 
had, and however long the winter is in the 
country, Karl never became weary, nor was 
he ever tired of his toys. On the contrary, he 
was always merry and happy with them. 

Most children get such a mass of toys to 
play with, that they all become a matter of in- 
difference to them. Finally they do not pay 
the proper attention to anything, for they are 
satiated, keep demanding something new, 
something more expensive, only in order to 
have the things because they have seen other 
children with them. The proper use for 
these things, their helpfulness and the pleas- 
ure they should afford does not concern them. 

180 The Education of Karl Witte 

They rather become indifferent toward what 
they have and greedy for what they do not 
own, and that is most injurious for their fu- 
ture lives. Their Christmas presents must 
end by becoming very expensive, and remain 
unused, whereas a few trifles, but such which 
could be put to various uses, gave Karl an in- 
credible amount of pleasure. 

As soon as the weather permitted, he lived 
in the open, under the circumstances described 
above. In the winter, especially during a 
clear frost, he played outside, walking, run- 
ning, leaping, with all kinds of acrobatic va- 
riations, riding on a stick, pulling his cart or 
sleigh, as the case might be. 

If the weather was more pleasant and the 
soil was no longer damp, the garden was his 
domicile. He passed hours in weeding, hunt- 
ing for asparagus, comparing leaves and blos- 
soms with one another; in finding out whether 
the plants and flowers were coming out and 
blossoming, in order to let us know about it; 
in observing the numberless insects, the creep- 
ing, running, hopping, flying ones, and to tell 
us about them later. He had no conception 
of fear of them. Even while he was an in- 
fant in our arms, we pointed them out to him 

Toys and First Steps in Education 181 

as something attractive, told him about them, 
and got him used to them. We would say, 
"A boy must not be afraid!" and similar state- 
ments completed the instruction which we 
had started in the above-mentioned way. 

If he found anything of the presence of 
which he thought we were ignorant, he 
brought it to us with a shout, asking insistent- 
ly for instruction and eager to know what it 
was good for. He was particularly fond of 
birds. Their nests were almost as sacred to 
him as human habitations, and their young 
ones as children. He never got tired admiring 
the skilful and purposive structure of the nest; 
the faithful brooding of the bird; the care be- 
stowed on the feeding of the young ones; 
their growth, change, fledging, flitting away, 
first accompanied by their parents, and then 
boldly and freely by themselves flying off into 
the world. All this gave him food for in- 

How could we have been able to bring him 
up so Godfearing and pious without our yard, 
garden, meadow, and forest? The thought 
that God, not we, made everything grow and 
prosper, through sunshine, wind, rain, dew, 
mist, etc., was so strongly developed in him 

182 The Education of Karl Witte 

that he could not see a thing becoming green 
and blossoming without at the same time 
thinking of God the creator, father, preserver, 
and provider of all beings. 

We, therefore, at times purposely varied the 
sentences, "It is growing, blossoming, bearing 
fruit," with the more correct ones, "God 
makes it grow, blossom, bear fruit." We par- 
ticularly expressed ourselves thus in regard 
to the weather, whether it was good or bad 
for the crops. 

If Karl was in the garden, or anywhere in 
the open, he felt himself to be in the earthly, 
visible kingdom of God, where the all-power, 
wisdom, and goodness of the Eternal One was 
ruling and daily working new miracles, most 
beneficent for man and beast. How could he 
have been able to think, speak or do anything 
wrong here, in the presence, under the eyes 
of his Heavenly Father! 

"A child that has not yet been misguided," 
I maintain with full confidence, "will, under 
the above-mentioned circumstances always be 
and want to be Godfearing and Godloving, 
consequently obedient, respectful, and amia- 
ble, grateful, industrious, and so forth." 


Must Children Play Much with Other 

SINCE I was repeatedly informed that Karl 
should have a playmate, for otherwise he 
would not enjoy his childhood and would 
get tired, ill-humored, or even stubborn, I 
finally gave in and, with the aid of my wife, 
chose, one after the other, two somewhat 
grown girls who at that time were apparently 
the best-behaved children in the whole com- 
munity. They sang, danced, and played with 
him, and he naturally was happy. 

But the same child that heretofore had nev- 
er been stubborn and had never told an un- 
truth, now learned both. He also became 
accustomed to coarse expressions, and grew 
arbitrary and domineering, because these 
girls, who came to us on account of some small 
advantage to them, did not oppose him. 

Our assurances that we should be happy 
if they did not give in to his will, but let us 


184 The Education of Karl Witte 

know of his arbitrariness, did no good. Their 
years, their social standing, their education, 
and the prejudices which are inseparable 
from it made them deaf against it, and we 
had to banish them. 

It is indeed a foolish and highly injurious 
idea that children cannot be merry without 
other children. 

It is only natural for them to wish to be 
with children, for with them they need not 
be so careful about their thoughts, inclina- 
tions, talks, and actions, and they are not 
guarded and supervised so constantly. But 
one need only be a child with them, need only 
take part in merry jests, let the children now 
and then get the upper hand and be more 
clever, by allowing them to occupy a place of 
greater dignity, and so forth, and they will 
feel just as happy playing with older persons, 
will learn to avoid naughty things, and will 
not so easily take any harm. 

Worst of all it is to make playmates out 
of uneducated children, especially without 
any close observation. I have constantly 
found the troubles, which I mentioned in re- 
gard to Karl, repeated in other families as 
well, and even worse troubles. The virtues 

Playing with Other Children 185 

of the well-brought-up child pass over less 
readily to the ill-brought-up children than the 
faults of the latter infect the still unspoiled 
child, for virtues demand, at least in the be- 
ginning, effort and self-control, because they 
are contrary to our inclinations and passions. 
But faults are more easily adopted, because 
our sensuousness naturally leans that way, and 
the bad example of the Jittle friend acts as an 

Most dangerous of all is the being together 
in an institution or public school. In regard 
to the latter it has been a settled principle for 
more than thirty years, observed by every sen- 
sible father, not to send his child, without the 
most urgent necessity, to the lower classes of 
the same, because there are more ill-brought- 
up children there than in the upper classes. 

So long as our schools are not at the same 
time schools of moral training, so long as the 
pupils, from the first moment to the last 
(more especially in the recesses, as well as 
before and after school), are not constantly 
under the supervision of a teacher, the expe- 
rienced father would gladly sacrifice all at- 
tendance at school, if the mass of information, 
which a large number of teachers can impart, 

1 86 The Education of Karl Witte 

did not make the instruction given by each of 
them in his specialty so desirable. 

One ought to take but a very few children, 
say two or three, under one's charge, when 
the supervision could be made successful. If 
one, for financial reasons, wishes to take fif- 
teen to twenty, one should keep enough teach- 
ers to have but two or three under the charge 
of one. 

If none of these precautions have been tak- 
en, the faults which have been brought to- 
gether from all the corners of the world must 
soon become the common possession, to out- 
grow and crush the few virtues which are 

It is rank stupidity to imagine that chil- 
dren cannot be agreeable and sociable unless 
they all the time go around with other chil- 
dren. I have repeatedly found the very oppo- 
site to be the truth. 

Karl and every child that was treated in 
the same way, were by that very treatment 
made more yielding, and it was, therefore, no 
hardship for them to have to yield. Other 
children tease what they want out of their 
playmates in various ways, and so become 
accustomed to self-assertion. From this there 

Playing with Other Children 187 

grow shrewdness, simulation, untruth, quar- 
reling, stubbornness, hatred, envy, haughti- 
ness, aspersion, fighting, calumniation, etc. A 
child remains quite free from all these, so 
long as he plays only with his parents or with 
other sensible persons. 

Naturally the opportunity for coming to- 
gether with children is not excluded, but their 
commingling should occur only now and then, 
and under supervision. Such an occasional 
meeting, when all the reserve has not been 
thrown off, can do no harm. Karl has had 
many a chance for meeting children under 
such circumstances during his longer or short- 
er journeys. 

He got along so well with them that they 
invariably became very fond of him and near- 
ly always parted from him with tears in their 
eyes. Having become accustomed to calm, 
merriment, order, and sensible reasoning, 
even in his games, he observed these virtues 
also when with other children. There was 
for him no ready cause for quarreling. On 
the contrary, he frequently avoided it by clear- 
ing away misunderstandings, or put an end to 
it by prayers, sensible arguments, and so forth. 

Since he never quarreled at home with any 

1 88 The Education of Karl Witte 

one, such action appeared to him repulsive 
and unseemly. He felt that quarreling put 
an end to playing, nor was his blood roused 
by daily recurring quarrels. He consequent- 
ly did not so easily become excited, nor did 
his blood boil as easily as that of children 
constantly quarreling and fighting with one 
another. He knew nothing of that anger 
which so frequently puts an end to children's 
playing. He remained calm, while others 
grew excited. Not even the naughtiest of boys 
could ever have brought him so far as to make 
him swear or fight. 

Nearly all the children, boys and girls, who 
knew him more intimately became fond of 
him. There was but one opinion about him, 
that he was very amiable and could get along 
well with others. I do not know a single case, 
not even in his maturer years, of his having 
quarreled with one of his many youthful 
friends, or of having fallen out with them, 
although many an occasion offered itself for it 
during his investigation, and even lively dis- 
cussion, of learned subjects. I may say there 
should have been such occasions, because his 
opponents were usually considerably older 
than he. 

Playing with Other Children 189 

He generally sided with his betters, and 
these betters knew him well, hence that inti- 
mate respect and love which they still have for 
him. Their mutual relations have frequently 
moved me to tears. 

My thanks are due to these worthy young 
men for having so tenderly and lastingly 
clung to him. They are sure of my respect 
and of his. 

People would, therefore, do well to drop 
that harmful prejudice that children can be 
made happy and merry only by playing with 
other children. With the same right one may 
say that they should be left much in the com- 
pany of the servants, for they like to be in 
their company for similar reasons, whereas, 
who would be so rash as to abandon them to 
servants, except in a case of dire necessity? 


Karl's Diet 

My wife scarcely changed her usual manner 
of life during her pregnancy. She at best 
avoided the heavy vegetables, or ate a little 
less of them than usual. She proceeded in the 
same manner all the time she nursed Karl. 

People knew that we would take no wet 
nurse and that Karl was going to have no other 
food than his mother's milk, if she should 
have enough nourishment for him. So they 
expressed their anxiety for us and for Karl. 
For, they said, the mother is not big and 
strong; how, then, can she give sufficient 
to the child? 

Then there began to pour in advice which, 
if I had been unreasonable or weak enough to 
follow it, would have made my wife ill and 
would have killed my son, or would have made 
a weakling of him. 

Imagine a person who, as all the advisers 
well knew, had never eaten anything but the 


Karl's Diet 191 

ordinary articles of food used in our station 
of life; who never drank anything but pure 
water, although she frequently could have had 
all costly beverages for nothing; whose break- 
fast consisted of bread and butter and a glass 
of water, while walking with me through the 
garden ; who never drank tea or coffee in the 
afternoon, and in the evening ate something 
very simple, and — mind you — had been 
brought up in this manner of life, felt particu- 
larly well and happy with it; imagine a per- 
son like this all of a sudden exhorted "in the 
morning to take in bed two cups of very strong 
coffee with excellent cream, and to eat a pret- 
zel or something like it; at ten o'clock to drink 
one large cup or two small cups of strong 
chocolate and eat with it a roll toasted in but- 

If she had any appetite before dinner, or if 
it was still long to dinner, she was "to have a 
cup or two of good meat broth." At dinner 
"she should have nothing but strengthening 
meat soup, fine vegetables, roast of chicken, 
duck, or venison, with something nourishing 
or refreshing, a few glasses of old French 
wine or very good red wine, whose quality 
should be carefully tested," while during the 

192 The Education of Karl Witte 

whole day she should have "very strong beer, 
best of all Morseburg beer with sugar." 
After dinner again "a few cups of particular- 
ly good coffee with cream; between five and 
six o'clock a few cups of tea with pretzels, or 
good meat broth; and in the evening meat- 
soup with some roast." With this a glass of 
wine, and after it the beer, as described. She 
must "abstain from all housework, must not 
run around so much, but may walk about the 
garden now and then." 

If my wife had, by some kind of a miracle, 
survived such a manner of life and remained 
in good health, Karl would have become a 
roly-poly, keeping his mother awake at nights 
with his restlessness, suffering from teething, 
and going through all kinds of children's dis- 
eases with their frequently injurious conse- 
quences. But, with God's aid, nothing of the 
kind was to happen, if my attending of medi- 
cal lectures and later careful observation and 
experience were to count for anything. 

However much my inexperienced wife may 
have felt inclined to follow the manner of life 
which had been recommended to her, I must 
do her the justice of stating that, relying upon 
me, she rejected it in the whole and in its 

Karl's Diet 193 

parts, and continued her usual way of living, 
paying, as before, attention to her household 
duties, and doing plenty of running about. It 
does her double honor, because she might 
have embarrassed me with the common saw, 
"Everybody says so; do you pretend to know 
better than everybody?" It did not escape 
my notice that, as a human creature, she occa- 
sionally thought that way. But she very rare- 
ly gave utterance to it, for an experience of 
nearly four years had shown her that there 
was reason in my simple treatment of the hu- 
man body. 

The only change she made in her manner of 
living was that in the morning and evening 
she ate some thin oatmeal gruel and at dinner 
took a little more soup than usual. Conse- 
quently the milk came in without the least dis- 
turbance, and she knew of milk fever and such 
like only from hearsay. Besides, she always 
had enough nourishment for Karl, so that he 
did not need any other food, yet was well fed. 
So much a pure, unspoilt human organism 
may perform, and so little does it need! Of 
puerperal fever, etc., there was not even a 

But how easily my wife might have gotten 

194 The Education of Karl Witte 

it, and how surely our child would have been 
sacrificed, if we had paid attention to the 
advice urged on us, is proved by the fol- 

At a christening at K., where my wife 
was as happy as usual and had a good ap- 
petite, she found a meat dish which she liked 
in particular and so ate in the evening of 
it more than was good for her. She was 
perfectly well the next day, but her milk 
did not preserve the customary mildness to 
which Karl had become accustomed. So he 
got a little heat and a slight fever. Instead of 
any medicine for him, his mother partook that 
day of considerably less meat, ate light food, 
and took a longer walk under God's free 
heaven. This cured Karl, and the next day 
he was as well as a fish in the water. 

Had we not observed his illness and cor- 
rectly judged its cause, and had we, in conse- 
quence, tried to cure it by means of medicine, 
that is, by some kind of poison, while my wife 
continued to feed on heavy meats, what then? 

But our advisers did not consider such 
things, or, rather, did not want to consider 
them, but were sure, as so many men are, that 
their advice was unfailing, and that we should 

Karl's Diet 195 

have to follow it, if we had any respect for 
them. In their shortsightedness these people 
confused the concepts "advice" and "com- 
mand" with one another. I have often ob- 
served and painfully felt such confusion in 
professional scholars. 

I have never understood the art of saying 
"Yes!" and doing "No!" So I tried at first 
to persuade my advisers that it would be bet- 
ter to follow a different course from that 
which they advocated. But I failed com- 
pletely in convincing them. Immediately, as 
usual, calumnies began to scatter from Dies- 
kau, over Halle, in all directions where I was 
known, accusing me of being quarrelsome, 
haughty, vain, stingy, mean to my wife, and 
asserting that I pretended to know everything 
better than anybody else. Openly, indeed, 
my detractors voiced their belief that my wife 
would grow weak and that my son would thus 
die. But when neither happened, when all 
secret and public inquiries proved to my an- 
tagonists, to their regret, that I was right, 
they became even more provoked against me, 
and now condemned me in general, where be- 
fore they had condemned me in relation to 
particular things. 

196 The Education of Karl Witte 

From that time dates the statement, which 
for many years has been made in regard to me 
at Halle, that I was a favorite of Fate, for the 
critics would not admit that the success of this 
or that plan was the result of ripe experience, 
much thought, and iron persistency. 

Karl was nursed for nine months, getting 
no other food during that time. Only once 
did I from human weakness submit to the gen- 
eral assurance that the mother would be too 
much affected by it. We tried carefully to 
feed Karl additionally, but mother and child 
at once began to suffer from it, and we re- 
turned to our better ways. 

When he was to be weaned, we gave 
him now and then a little soup of powdered 
toast with water and a little butter. By de- 
grees we repeated the experiment more fre- 
quently, while my wife kept more and more 
away from the child. After a few days he 
forgot about the nursing, and his mother lost 
the milk, without knowing how. 

Now the above-mentioned soup began more 
frequently to alternate with oatmeal gruel, 
and occasionally my wife boiled the oatmeal 
with fresh milk. A little later he now and 
then got a little meat soup, which we thinned 

Karl's Diet 197 

with water, if it appeared to us to be too 
strong. By degrees he was accustomed to light 
vegetables, finally to everything which we our- 
selves ate, excepting that we gave him com- 
paratively little meat. In consequence of this 
natural procedure he got one tooth after the 
other, without any pain and without our 
knowing it. 

The loss of the milk in my wife was pre- 
pared in the following manner: From the 
time that Karl was to be weaned she ate con- 
siderably less, least of all meat and nourishing 
dishes, so that at times she was really hungry, 
and she drank much water. In this way the 
milk became visibly thinner, ran out, when 
Karl did not drink it, and completely stopped 
in a few days, without the slightest pain. 

In the first two years the boy received in 
the morning some soup, later on the same 
food as we took, bread and butter and fresh 
water. Up to his fourth year or so we gave 
him a second piece of bread and butter be- 
tween ten and eleven o'clock. 

In spite of our strict attention, the child 
occasionally received something in secret, es- 
pecially from the peasant women, because 
these know of no other way of expressing 

198 The Education of Karl Witte 

their love. Once he might have been greatly 
harmed in this way, for Mrs. P. G. at R. had 
fed him with blood sausage, while he was 
still being nursed. We found that out next 
day from the servant who had taken him there, 
when Karl had become ill. 

Beginning with his third year his food was 
precisely the same as ours. After his simple 
breakfast and constant motion in the open, 
he generally had an excellent appetite for his 
dinner. He was taught to eat everything. 
We here united love with earnestness and rea- 
son, as in his whole educational scheme. Our 
dishes were cooked fresh every day, and they 
were well prepared. If there was one which 
he did not particularly like, we made this 
concession that we did not force him to eat 
much of it. At the same time we directed his 
attention, by representations or a story invent- 
ed for the occasion, to the fact that by his dis- 
like he deprived himself of a great enjoyment, 
since the particular food was very much liked 
by us and by all other men. "We rejoice 
every time it comes," we would say, "and you 
feel grieved! Get used to eating it, and you 
will not be grieved, but will rejoice with us!" 
Since we, his parents, ate anything, we could 

Karl's Diet 199 

so much the more easily get him to do like- 
wise, by directing his attention to our example. 
In fact, in a very short time he ate everything. 

At four o'clock he got his bread and but- 
ter, and drank a small pot of water. 
Frequently he would do without the butter, 
because our stories had taught him the use- 
fulness of reducing one's wants. In the eve- 
ning he received his soup, as a rule before 
our supper, so that he could go to bed in 
good season. 

We cannot recall a case when he had an 
attack of indigestion while living at home. 
Even when away from home, that happened 
but rarely and was not of much importance. 
His hosts would stuff him, from so-called 
love. But as soon as he had come to his 
senses, he refused to accept such manifesta- 
tions of love, and, even when the most attrac- 
tive dainties were offered him, would say, to 
their astonishment and even anger, "I thank 
you, I have had enough!" 

I aver most solemnly that the silly love for 
Karl went so far that people of that type bore 
me a real grudge, because they could not see, 
and therefore could not admit, that Karl's 
refusals came from his soul. 

200 The Education of Karl Witte 

"It is against nature," they would say, "for 
a child not to like dainties. You must have 
forbidden him with great severity to eat them, 
or you must have signaled to him and the 
poor boy obeys you implicitly!" 

Such, forsooth, were the words that were 
uttered in my presence and that of Karl. It 
was a settled thing with them that I was a bar- 

The dear people naturally spoke of nature 
as viewed from their standpoint, and did not 
even suspect that it is the business of the edu- 
cator to ennoble the lower, sensuous nature, 
that it is his duty to elicit what is highest in 
man by means of reason and habit, to strength- 
en it, and to make it occupy a commanding 
position. Still less did they know that it was 
an easy matter to accomplish, and that in a 
child properly brought up from the start the 
result came of its own accord. 

Having been in a hundred different ways 
instructed in the matter, Karl considered 
health and good spirits to be two invaluable 
possessions. We seldom or never allowed an 
opportunity to pass without lauding them and 
regretting their absence. "He who eats too 
much," we would often say, "later loses his 

Karl's Diet 201 

good spirits and grows indisposed and even 
sick." If he had been overfed at some place, 
we pitied him, because he had to suffer, could 
not be as happy as usual; in a lively manner, 
yet truthfully, we brought before his eyes the 
many inconveniences which he now had to 
suffer; directed his attention to the possible, 
even worse consequences; reminded him, es- 
pecially in good weather, of his loss at not be- 
ing able to play outside, or study, or help us; 
made him observe that we, too, on his account, 
could not be outside, that we missed some 
things and were worried. 

How could a child whose mind and heart 
had been properly trained help hearing all 
that with sorrow? If I know anything about 
the human mind, he could not help regretting 
his imprudence and make up his mind to be 
more cautious in the future. Excuses such as, 
"They pushed it upon me," were not accepted, 
and so they were never given by Karl. 

"You know, dear child, that it is injurious 
to eat more than is absolutely necessary. Why 
did you give in? Will they now be suffering 
for you? Go and ask them to! But you can- 
not do that, and they cannot and will not take 
over your pain. So be more careful in the 

202 The Education of Karl Witte 

future, and on such occasions think of our in- 
junction! Or do you believe that they know- 
better than we? Do you imagine they love 
you more than we do? Dear boy, how could 
that be possible? We, your parents, who give 
you every day so many proofs of our love and 
care! No, my child, you cannot imagine that! 
The food which you ate elsewhere does not 
cost us anything, — then why do we so earnest- 
ly wish you had not eaten it? Because it hurts 

Deeply touched, he would embrace us and 
give the most solemn promise that he would 
in the future watch himself more closely. 

As a rule we told him afterward a story or 
two invented for the occasion, and these never 
failed in their purpose. We also drew exam- 
ples from life, for which, alas, only too many 
cases offered themselves. Among the peasant 
children overeating is unfortunately a com- 
mon occurrence, for these people cling to 
sensuality, because the higher enjoyments are 
unknown and unattainable by them. We pre- 
ferably drew his attention to similar incidents 
in more cultured families, especially if they 
referred to some young friend or acquaint- 

Karl's Diet 203 

The son of a pastor not far away was 
named F. The child was one year old when 
I entered the house of his parents for the first 
time. He was such a pretty boy that on my 
way home to Lochau I said to my wife, "That 
child could be trained very highly!" 

But the boy was soon named "gold son," 
"father's treasure," "mother's treasure," and 
so forth (he, certainly, was the last two, but 
not the first), and before long I came to the 
conviction that the child could not be trained 
so highly after all. The child was so stuffed 
that he became big and fat. His mother fre- 
quently showed him to us with a certain pride, 
because he was such a butterball. I felt really 
anxious about him, and so I could not keep 
from explaining to her the dangers which 
awaited such a well-fed baby. 

But she smiled with a knowing mien, and 
the father with self-satisfaction pointed to 
his remaining nine children, who, it is true, 
had "grown." As I could not discuss this 
particular point, I kept silent. 

What I feared actually happened. The 
child suffered from time to time from his ex- 
cessive feeding, grew daily more homely, suf- 
fered excruciating toothaches, got all kinds 

204 The Education of Karl Witte 

of children's diseases, and was often near 
death. But as his parents were very healthy, 
he, too, had much vitality; so he went on suf- 
fering, and survived. 

When the boy was eight or nine years old, 
I could never look at him without sorrow, — 
he was small, bloated, repellent in shape, with 
an uncommonly large head, the face pitted 
from smallpox, his features irregular, his eyes 
dimmed, his expression dull. 

It is to be lamented that men so frequently 
tread humanity under foot. The little crea- 
ture had no time for reasoning, — he was all 
the time busy with his digestion. His mental- 
ity was therefore in a most pitiable condition. 
But he did not know it. In the village school, 
which he attended off and on, he was far be- 
hind the peasant children, but these respected 
him as the pastor's child, and so he felt his dis- 
tance from them in an inverse sense. 

I was so fully convinced that he gorged 
himself at every holiday, that once, soon after 
Christmas, I asked his elder brother, whom 
we met on a walk: 

"How is everybody at home? All are 

"Thank you, yes!" 

Karl's Diet 205 

"But F. is sick, is he not?" 

"Yes, he is. But how do you know it al- 

"O well! Is it not just after Christmas?" 

The humanely inclined person will compre- 
hend with what bitter feeling I voluntarily 
uttered those words. But I risked very little, 
for this elder son had also eaten a great deal 
during his childhood. 

I went at once with Karl to see F. He had 
violent abdominal pain and a very violent 
headache, and was delirious. 

I led the whole conversation, in Karl's pres- 
ence, by means of questions and answers, in 
such a way that everything was discussed as 
I wanted, and that Karl carried away more 
than enough for himself. Then I pitied the 
victim of imprudence from the fullness of 
my heart, wished him a speedy recovery, and 
returned home. 

No sooner were we in the open than Karl 
went over everything he had heard and seen 
with me, accompanying everything with ap- 
propriate remarks. He earnestly begged me 
to keep him in the future from overeating, 
and on his part promised absolute obedience. 

In this way we soon needed only to give 

206 The Education of Karl Witte 

him a little warning, whenever we went out 
calling, and even this could after a while be 
dispensed with. 

What could I have done with him, if he had 
not been brought up in that manner? Even in 
his fourth, fifth, and sixth year he used to sit 
in Magdeburg, Leipsic, Dresden, Berlin, and 
Rostock, but especially in small cities and vil- 
lages, at well-filled tables, and frequently a 
great distance away from me, some person or 
other having asked for his company at table. 
When, in his seventh, eighth, and ninth year, 
he became well known, he would have per- 
ished, for we were then invited to the tables 
of the rich. On such occasions Karl was sep- 
arated far from me, in order to be under ob- 
servation, and they confessed to me more than 
once that they had in vain tried to tempt him. 

At first this caused me anxiety, but later on 
I only smiled and remained calm, because 
from his fifth year he had been eating at home 
without restraint, according to his inclination, 
and yet had never overeaten. 

In regard to sugar and all sweetmeats, we 
had taught him from the start to eat but little 
or nothing at all of them. Sugar and sweet- 
meats give the children a sweet tooth, and 

Karl's Diet 207 

then they become indifferent toward simple 
dishes. This is bad enough, but they soon 
hanker for the sugared dainties, which they 
buy for themselves. That is worse. If they 
cannot buy any more, they become dissatis- 
fied with their parents and their circum- 
stances, and perhaps steal the sweetmeats or 
the money for them. Which decidedly is 
worst of all. 

Besides, I believe that the frequent use of 
sweetmeats coats the stomach and, since the 
sweetmeats are generally also rich, ruins it. 
This creates or, rather, breeds worms, produ- 
cing untold annoyance, even horrible cramps. 
Nor can the sugar taken in great quantity and 
bitten into, as children always do, help being 
injurious to the young teeth, since it contains 
a strong salt, which directly injures the enam- 
el and the tooth itself, with its nerves. Even 
if this were not the case, the exhalations of 
the stomach, coated and ruined by the sweet- 
meats, are enough to spoil the child's teeth. 
I have always found it so, and I have observed 
the beneficial consequences of a contrary treat- 

I will also mention that sweetmeats are 
generally given to children when their hunger 

208 The Education of Karl Witte 

has already been satisfied, and that conse- 
quently this alone must be injurious, causing 
a spoiled stomach, because sweetmeats stimu- 
late one to eat more than one otherwise would. 

In any case I have found the popular preju- 
dice justified. "Sweetmeats give the children 
black teeth," and "Sugar makes the teeth fall 

So Karl was never allowed to fall into the 
habit of eating either much sugar or many 
sweetmeats. Others pressed them on him, but 
in vain. 

In a Halle family it was the custom to give 
the children off and on a cone of candy. I 
begged them not to give one to Karl, but it 
did no good. I elaborated my reasons, but 
they were laughed away. I was thinking of 
ceasing to visit this house or, at least, letting 
Karl appear there less frequently, but this 
proved unnecessary. Karl understood us so 
well that he divided the cone among us and 
other persons present, and with the sugar, of 
which they also gave him large pieces, he fed 
a dog, who was very fond of it. The surpris- 
ing thing was that he never gave the sugar to 
a human being, as though he considered it 
unworthy of a man to eat sugar. 

Karl's Diet 209 

I suffered many an annoyance from that 
family, who otherwise were kindly inclined 
toward me. Every time Karl divided up his 
candy or fed the dog, he was scolded for it, 
and I was even asked to order him to keep 
what he was given. I would net have done 
so for anything in the world. At first that 
considerably disturbed the social merriment, 
but by degrees our hosts became accustomed 
to it. When Karl was in his third year and 
persisted in his determination not to eat the 
candy, they completely stopped urging him or 

It has been mentioned that Karl ate com- 
paratively little meat. This practice was long 
continued, but his rations were increased from 
year to year, especially when we noticed that 
he was growing more than usual, or when we 
had some other reason for assuming that more 
nourishing food would be good for him. . 

For this purpose we noted every day, often 
more than once a dav, Karl's complexion, 
appetite, activity, and spirits, — and also, later, 
the ease with which his mind worked, but 
more especially his growth. His height was 
marked on a door-post. He was measured 
the first of each month, and as a rule the in- 

210 The Education of Karl Witte 

crease in height was noticeable every time. If 
it was greater than usual, we gave him a little 
more meat. 

It needs no proof that much meat is inju- 
rious to the stomach and the intestines of chil- 
dren. It putrefies with the least disorder to 
which they are subjected, and ruins the purity 
of the juices, from which various troubles nat- 
urally result. 

Even if the children digest it all and de- 
velop no visible bodily ailment, it still injures 
them, for they become violent, arbitrary, stub- 
born, cruel, and so forth. 

This lies in the nature of things, and is 
shown by the wildness of the purely meat- 
eating animals and the greater mildness of the 
purely plant-eating animals. I have found 
the same to be the case with men as well, and 
all the information we have of distant peoples 
agrees with my personal observation. We 
had a convincing example, in the case of Karl, 
that an entirely vegetable diet made a child 
almost too meek and yielding. I consider it 
my duty to report the case, especially as the 
contrary deduction in the opposite case may 
thus be safely made. 

By means of careful treatment and diet 

Karl's Diet 211 

Karl, in his third year, as ever afterward, 
was neither too violent, nor too meek. At that 
time I decided, for sufficient reasons, to make 
a visit to Hamburg with my wife. Our great 
question was not what would in the meanwhile 
become of our property, but what we should 
do with Karl. 

Many persons expressed the wish to take 
Karl to their house while we were away. But 
we were afraid, here of the sugar, there of the 
meat, or of too great indulgence, and so wa- 
vered for a long time. At last we decided to 
intrust him to our now deceased friend and 
relative, Merchant J. H. Heintz in Leipsic. 
He had proved that he knew how to bring up 
children, for his three sons and two daugh- 
ters, all grown, did him the greatest honor. 
Besides, he was the one person who most 
closely agreed with my method of education. 
In his house, where we visited frequently, 
Karl was never tempted to any of the above- 
mentioned indulgences. 

Heintz was perfectly willing to take Karl 
into his house, but demanded detailed written 
instructions as to how he and his family should 
treat the child. I gave them to him, but, per- 
haps, dwelt too much on the point that Karl 

212 The Education of Karl Witte 

should get but little meat, or else he and his 
family, from noble conscientiousness, took me 
too closely at my word. Anyway, Karl in those 
eight weeks that he was with them, out of 
amiable precaution did not get enough meat. 
When we called for him, we were moved al- 
most to tears by his excessive meekness. The 
formerly lively, kindly yet droll, roguish, nay, 
at times even wanton boy had completely dis- 
appeared. Before us stood a soft, yielding, 
gently smiling being, who at first did not rec- 
ognize us, and then doubtfully and weakly re- 
sponded to our ardent embraces with a tear 
in his eye. 

That very day, while still in Leipsic, I 
gave him a little more meat than customary, 
and we went back to Lochau. In two weeks 
he was tumbling about merrily in the house, 
in the yard, and in the garden ; was as much of 
a rogue as before ; and again knew how, in jest, 
to tease. 


What we did for Karl's Moral 

The fundamental rules which we followed 
for Karl's moral development, and tried to 
execute with the greatest conscientiousness, 
were these : Always to be just and reasonable, 
stern but amiable toward him. If one of us 
had overlooked something in him or had too 
easily forgiven him, the other considered that 
to be as great a fault as to have been too stern 
or too vehement, for, at bottom, both are 
equally bad. 

Karl was allowed to ask for anything that 
was natural, that was not unjust, that was 
good. It was generally granted to him, even 
if we had to add the remark that, for this 
reason or that, it was no longer proper for 
him. If he asked for anything else, he was 
flatly refused it, without giving him any 
further reasons, if he could know them him- 
self; with sound and comprehensible reasons, 


214 The Education of Karl Witte 

if they were still unknown to him. If he 
seemed to have forgotten those which he 
knew, we quizzed him, to bring them back to 
his memory. 

Even in his first year we used to say, loudly, 
clearly, and earnestly, "No!" Then, perhaps, 
would rattle with two keys, or show him 
something new, saying, with emphasis, "Look, 
Karl I" He generally looked at what we held 
before him, listened to our words, and thus 
forgot what he wanted. 

It is self-understood that such a helpless 
creature could not be allowed to suffer any 
want in food and drink, in cleanliness and 
order, for otherwise he would not have been 
satisfied with the rattling of the keys, for the 
bodily want would have returned the mo- 
ment the curiosity was satisfied. But I dare 
say that our child never suffered in that 

After a short time we hardly needed to do 
anything more than turn his attention to some 
other thing, for he soon noticed that "Yes!" 
with us meant "Yes!" and "No" meant "No!" 
whether he afterward cried or laughed. Thus 
he imperceptibly became accustomed to obey 
implicitly, and I can aver that we had noth- 

Karl's Moral Education 215 

ing to desire in this respect, until we took 
some boys to our house to educate. 

Implicit obedience is infinitely more im- 
portant than one would usually think, for a 
child is again and again on the point of doing 
something by which he may hart himself. 
To the obedient child you need only call out, 
"Do not do that, my child!" or simply call 
him by name, and he will stop at once, will 
stand still, will pay attention, and so forth. 
Then you can impart to him the reasons for 
the prohibition, in order to safeguard the 
child in a future similar situation. You may 
call to a disobedient child as loudly as you 
wish. Not being in the habit of obeying, he 
will go on doing what he wanted, and then 
it is too late, for the damage has been done. 

One incident will serve as an example and 
proof of the freedom of action which Karl 
enjoyed and in which he was protected 
against everybody. In the nature of things 
his mother was in the first two or three years 
of his life dearer to him than I. I was much 
in my study, out on business, or away from 
the house. When I was in his presence, I 
earnestly, nay, severely, insisted upon order, 
cleanliness, obedience, etc., and thus obtained 

216 The Education of Karl Witte 

things which his mother, as a feminine being, 
either was not able to obtain or, from motherly- 
love or even carelessness, had overlooked. 

The little fellow could not grasp my atti- 
tude yet, nor recognize the justice and pater- 
nal amiability in it all. Hence he loved his 
mother more than me. I had long noticed 
it, but I was satisfied, for it seemed natural 
to me. Once we were sitting all three on a 
sofa, and Karl was playing most tenderly 
with my wife. But she, in the goodness of 
her heart, kept pointing to my side, and the 
child turned to fondle me also, but immedi- 
ately went back to his mother. She shoved 
him once more over to my side, whispering 
to him to be more tender toward me. I imme- 
diately addressed her with much earnestness: 

"For the Lord's sake, let him fondle whom- 
soever he wishes, for it is right so! He now 
loves you more than me, and he must, if I am 
not to reprove him. He cannot help mani- 
festing it unless he is a hypocrite. But the 
time will come, when I will do more for him 
than you. Then he will certainly honor me, 
if not love me, more." 

My wife understood me. She gave him his 
will, and that time has actually come. 

Karl's Moral Education 217 

So far as it was in any way possible, I tried 
to keep his judgments pure and free. The 
thousands of prejudices pro and con, which 
are inculcated in the ordinary education, 
cling to people to their graves, and immeas- 
urably interfere with their clear perception 
in the affairs and incidents of life. 

I know full well that one must not speak 
at all with children about certain things, 
while other things should be mentioned only 
with great caution and reserve, and other 
things again should not be broached until 
they have formed and expressed their own 
opinion about them. But then their opinion 
should not be lied away, in so far as it is 
right. I will only grant this much, that it 
may be somewhat softened, with the use of 
the greatest caution, so that its rough edges 
shall be polished off. 

If Karl, as a child, passed in society a cor- 
rect but too abrupt or harsh a judgment, I 
let it stand, but said to the persons present, 
in half jest, "You see, he is a village boy! You 
must not take it ill of him!" 

Karl soon came to understand that he had 
in such cases uttered a correct but improper 
statement, and he was sure, when we were 

2i 8 The Education of Karl Witte 

alone, to ask me the "Why?" of it. Then I 
had a good opportunity to show him the pros 
and cons of the case, and to get him used to 
better manners, without narrowing his intel- 
lect or doing his heart any injury. Above all 
I tried, whenever possible, to refer it to a 
higher morality and to true piety. In such a 
case I would calmly say: 

"Your judgment was strictly correct, but 
though I must acknowledge this, it was not 
good or kind of you to utter it. You should 
hardly have spoken it in the presence of your 
parents, and never in the presence of others. 
Did you observe how embarrassed Mr. N. 
was? He could not, or would not, contradict, 
perhaps from love and respect for us, but he 
was much hurt to have a child tell him some- 
thing unpleasant. If he is out of sorts to-day 
or others make fun of him, you are to be 
blamed for it!" 

Karl was certainly moved by this deeply, 
and was truly sorry for having pained him. 
But let us suppose Karl did not see his mis- 
take and, instead, answered, "But he was 
friendly with me all the time," I should then 
have replied: 

"Perhaps from pity for you, because my 

Karl's Moral Education 219 

words, 'He is a village boy,' showed him the 
real state of affairs. You have certainly not 
gained respect, love, and gratitude for your- 
self by your embarrassing judgment. You 
do not seem to have noticed that the persons 
present anxiously watched, now you, now me, 
now him, and the conversation would have 
halted, if I had not turned it to something 
else that attracted them vividly." 

I again assume the truly unthinkable case 
that Karl was still not ashamed, but would 
have answered, "But it was true!" I would 
have corrected him more earnestly: 

"Are you sure about that? It may very 
well be that you are mistaken. How if he 
had answered, 'A reason with which you are 
not acquainted compelled me to act that way.' 
How then? Or if he had said to you, 'Are 
you my judge? You, a little, unreasoning 
child?' Even if it was true, unconditionally 
true, his statement being wrong, — which I, 
however, still doubt, — ought you not have 
kept silence from consideration for him? Did 
you not observe that we were all silent? Or 
are you so simple as to believe that you alone 
noticed the mistake in his actions? 

"Tell me, my child, how would you like 

220 The Education of Karl Witte 

it, if he, and a hundred others, should take 
you up for your oversights, weaknesses, care- 
lessness, blunders, and so forth, and should 
even lay them before the eyes of strangers? 
And that would be a mere trifle, for it would 
be a grown man who would reprove a child, 
which would be perfectly proper and un- 
questionably right. The child would not be 
harmed by such a reproof, for from an un- 
reasoning being like you people expect a lot 
of things which are not just right, and they 
pass over them lightly, or pardon them alto- 

"Or do you imagine that other people do 
not observe your mistakes? You are wrong 
there! Out of kindness toward you, or, per- 
haps, toward others as well, they pass over 
them in silence and do not embarrass you by 
mentioning them to you. But several of my 
friends, who love you sincerely, have often 
told me or your mother of incidents which 
do you no honor. They did not tell about them 
to any one else, and they told them to us only 
because they wished to improve and ennoble 

"This noble kindness pleases you, does it 
not? Very well, then you must act in the 

Karl's Moral Education 221 

same manner. 'What you wish that people 
should do to you, you must do first to them!' 

"To tell the truth, to tell it in a harsh and 
provoking manner, to be severely just and 
painfully search out the faults of your fellow- 
man, or even reprove him for them, without 
any particular reason for it, in the presence 
of others, is far removed from being good, 
yet being good is something unspeakably 
beautiful, for we call for this very reason the 
sum of all perfection 'God,' that is, 'Good.' 
You, too, my child, wish to become like God. 
If you do, you must perfect yourself as much 
as possible. Above all, do not forget to be 

I am sure that by that time Karl would 
have promised, with tears of contrition, never 
again to pain a person in that manner, and I 
am convinced that only human, more par- 
ticularly childish, weakness could ever have 
led him to do so. 

But for my purpose I will assume that, 
none the less, he will retort, "Shall I tell an 
untruth?" Assuming this, I would have 

"Not in the least! For then you would be 
lying or be a hypocrite. But there is no need 

222 The Education of Karl Witte 

of all that. All you have to do is to keep 
quiet. It would, indeed, be a sad life for 
you, for me, and for all men, if everybody 
were to search out the faults or foibles of his 
acquaintances, and ruthlessly tell of them be- 
fore others. That would be an eternal war 
of all against all, for no man is without faults. 
No one would be at rest. Everybody would 
have to be constantly on the watch, in order 
to strike or to protect himself. Would that 
be living with each other as men, as Chris- 
tians, as children of one father, as representa- 
tives of the highest Good?" 

But I do the poor boy an injustice. It may 
be that I have told him all that, but, I am 
sure, never at one time, for so much was not 
necessary to cause him to perceive, regret, and 
mend faults against morality or piety. I have, 
however, forgotten to mention that I would 
also have told him some appropriate story, 
which indeed the reader will surmise, from 
previous hints. 


How Karl Learned to Read and Write 

One of Karl's favorite amusements was to 
look at pictures. We naturally explained to 
him everything worth knowing in a picture, 
and afterward we had him describe it to us, 
now as his teachers, now as his pupils. So 
long as he could not read, we used to say 

"Oh, if you only knew how to read! It is 
a most interesting story, but I have no time 
to tell it to you." 

If we then went away, he looked at the 
story in the picture-book as at a talisman 
whose secret powers were useless to him, be- 
cause he lacked the magic word with which 
to unlock it. At times he would create for 
himself another story from the picture, which 
he related to us in order that we might give 
him the real story. 1 Thus we roused in him 
by degrees the desire for reading. 

1 The telling of stories was indeed an essential part of 
Karl's early education, and I cannot sufficiently recommend 


224 The Education of Karl Witte 

Meanwhile I bought Basedow's elementary 
work, with the explanatory text, then a num- 
ber of other appropriate readers with etch- 
ings. I must remark here that many of these 
unfortunately were borrowed from Basedow, 
and often were inferior to those in his book. 
However, since I myself had a fairly large 
collection of etchings, from which I from 
time to time selected what was appropriate 
for Karl's observation, he generally had a suf- 
ficient supply of pictures during the rough 
season. In good weather, Nature, or what 
we saw on our journeys, and in the evening 
the starred heavens, were his picture-book. 
This turning from one to another, from books 
to life, was of incalculable value to the child. 

When we got so far as to have Karl ex- 
press a desire to learn reading — he was then 

it to other parents — particularly the invention and telling of 
stories to inculcate specially needed lessons. Such stories, 
properly told, are not readily forgotten by a child. At times, 
if Karl acted like some bad boy of whom he had heard a 
story, we only needed briefly and emphatically to say, "Mar- 
tin," or "Peter," and he understood perfectly. I would also 
recommend the learning by heart of short poems, which, 
however, should be readily comprehensible. One may begin 
with, "Children, how great all the Pleasures will be," or with 
"When I am good," and by gradually giving more difficult 
poems one may in a short time reach Schiller. The child 
will understand everything, and his mind, morality, piety, 
taste, conduct, and memory will thus be trained. 

Learning to Read and Write 225 

between three and four years old — I bought 
in Leipsic ten sets of the German printed let- 
ters, large and small, similarly ten sets of the 
Latin alphabet, of the diacritical and other 
marks, and of the numbers from o to 9. Every 
letter was three inches high and pasted on a 
piece of wood. I threw the whole into a box, 
and showed it to him as a new game, the letter 

Then all three of us sat down on the car- 
pet, fished out the German small letters, 
mixed them all up, and blindly picked up 
one of them. The letter so taken up was care- 
fully and solemnly surveyed and loudly and 
distinctly named. It went from hand to hand, 
and everybody did the same. At first we so 
arranged it that only the vowels, a, e, or i, etc., 
would reappear frequently. We then held 
each before Karl, before naming it ourselves, 
and if he recognized it, we fondled him. If 
he did not recognize it, we would laughingly 
say, "Oh, you silly child, it is an a or e," etc. 

I assure you, it took but a few days, and 
only a few quarters of an hour each day, for 
Karl to know all the letters. 

The German capital letters were intro- 
duced now and then, as if by accident. Now 

226 The Education of Karl Witte 

my wife asked me, now I my wife, now Karl 
one of us, to look carefully at the capital 
and tell how it differed from the corre- 
sponding small letter. This may be varied 
at will. 

When he had mastered both kinds of let- 
ters, I secretly threw in a few of the Latin 
small letters. If one of them made its ap- 
pearance, it was admired and ridiculed in 
common for having lost its way among the 
German letters. Karl had to look for the 
corresponding German letter and to compare 
the two. In this way he very soon learned 
the Latin small letters, after which the next 
step, to the Latin capitals, was very easy, 
especially as he began to play with the letters 
by himself. 

As soon as he had learned the letters, we 
began to put together syllables and words. 
We naturally chose as funny ones as we could, 
or let him choose them. At other times, some 
friend of ours would ask Karl to teach him 
the letter game, pretending that he did not 
know it, or, as a reward for some good action 
of the child, he offered to play the game with 
him. Thus we rearranged the instruction in 
many ways, and in a short and easy manner 

Learning to Read and Write IT] 

attained what we wished, without really 
teaching him reading. 

He knew all the letters perfectly; he 
formed syllables and words from them quite 
correctly and without any labor; he even com- 
posed sentences. He had also learned the 
marks and the numbers, and knew how to 
use them. That was all I wanted for the 
time being, as I was afraid of precocity. Now, 
when Karl was four years old, I visited, with 
my friends Glaubitz and Tillich, the Pesta- 
lozzi Institute and traveled at the same time 
through Switzerland and Upper Italy. My 
wife, who was always afraid that Karl, on ac- 
count of his mediocre ability, would not learn 
much, and who saw with anxiety how little 
I, apparently, was doing for him, used my 
long absence to teach him to read, as she 
wished to surprise me with his accomplish- 

What I had feared actually happened. 
The child, who heretofore had learned every- 
thing from Nature, from his surroundings, 
and from illustrations, using the little objects, 
such as building-blocks and letters only as a 
game, became considerably embarrassed and 
discouraged when he had to busy himself with 

228 The Education of Karl Witte 

mere printed words, of which four, six, or 
even eight in a row made no sense at all or 
no attractive sense whatsoever. 

The letters from which Karl had been in 
the habit of forming his own words, or those 
funny ones which we made for him to pro- 
nounce, had been three inches in height, 
while those which were not at all entertaining 
were only a line in size. All that displeased 
him, and made his mother's instruction very 
hard. Thank Heaven that it did not entirely 
discourage Karl. 

When I returned, Louise had by dint of 
hard work gotten him to read laboriously. I 
acknowledged her good-will gratefully, but 
in reality put little value upon what she had 
accomplished, because Karl was not to have 
such instruction as yet, partly because I had 
not yet noticed in him any lively desire to 
read in books. I was afraid that general in- 
struction would annoy him, when I heard him 
refuse to read a short story, even though we 
assured him that it was funny and would 
amuse him. "I thank you," he said, "I do not 
want to read it, I know it already." 

I would easily have been persuaded into 
allowing him to forget the whole laboriously 

Learning to Read and Write 229 

acquired art of reading, but that would have 
pained my wife. At that very time I was 
writing about the Pestalozzi Institute and 
thinking a great deal about the teaching and 
learning of reading. I was thus induced to 
search for all kinds of means for making read- 
ing agreeable to Karl, so that he would be 
able quickly and with pleasure to enjoy the 
fruits of his endeavor; and I was uncommonly 
happy when I found a few very short, and yet 
droll stories, which he liked to read and 
which he of his own accord frequently read to 
us, with a merry laugh. "Do you see," I said, 
"what a pleasure it is to be able to read? See 
what pleasure you will have from it soon, in 
the winter, when you cannot play in the 
open!" Our friends, too, asked him to amuse 
them by reading to them, and thus I attained 
what I wanted. He became fonder and fonder 
of it, and it was not long before I could pur- 
chase appropriate books for him. He read 
them eagerly, some of them two and three 

I have already spoken of his correct in- 
tonation. His reading facility he owed to 
himself, for it was a rule with me ( 1 ) to instill 
him with love for his study, (2) to teach him 

230 The Education of Karl Witte 

the most necessary thing, (3) to make the in- 
struction as comprehensible and easy as pos- 
sible. After all that had been obtained, we, 
his parents, with the occasional help of our 
friends, merely encouraged, furnished the op- 
portunity, praised, and rewarded him. He 
did the rest himself. 

I should have, indeed, had too much to do, 
if, with my official duties, with the many 
things which I then had to prepare for the 
printer, and with the frequent journeys de- 
volving on me, I had tried to carry to com- 
pletion the child's education. That would 
have by far surpassed my time, strength, and 
desire, and, besides, would have been entirely 
against my plan. 

For the same reason I did not formally 
teach Karl writing. We frequently spoke to 
one another, to him, and to others, in his pres- 
ence, of the great usefulness of writing, and 
we frequently gave him inducements for the 
desire to write. But we did not help him out, 
at least not for any length of time, and only 
after his repeated requests. At first he drew 
the printed letters. When, after a while, we 
jested him about them and, at his request, 
gave him the written letters, he began to draw 

Learning to Read and Write 231 

these too, and finally was able to do easily 
what others obtain only after laborious study 
— that is, he was able to copy and put down 
whatever he pleased. 

How much time both he and I have thus 
saved! How much more he has been able 
to enjoy the fresh air! How much more 
rarely he has been scolded, and how much 
easier it has been for him to keep his hands, 
face, and garments clean. If he wants to 
write caligraphically, he can acquire this art, 
as I have, in his nineteenth or twentieth year 
in a period of four weeks, without having 
wasted much of his previous time. 

One important reason why I did not teach 
him writing in the usual way, was this, that 
I did not want him to train his attention for 
writing and then for depending on the written 
word. This is so frequently done, especially 
at university lectures, and all it produces is 
heroes of memory. If such writing machines 
do not repeat exactly what has been com- 
mitted to paper, they do not turn out to be 
even heroes of memory. But my son always 
paid attention to what was said, and made 
but the rarest use of notes, hence he was able 
to master the whole of a lecture, which he 

232 The Education of Karl Witte 

soon did to the complete satisfaction of his 
academic teachers, as well as my own, as their 
testimonies certify. 

I here communicate still another letter 
game, which we learned later in Wildeck at 
the court of Hessen-Rothenburg. The players 
seated themselves about a round table. Upon 
it were thrown a large mass of letters, ciphers, 
etc. (about an inch in height and pasted on 
cardboard). Now each one in the company 
took a few of them and formed one, two, three, 
or more syllables with them. Then he mixed 
them up and gave them to his neighbor. There 
are five words, he would say. The first begins 
with k, the second with p, the third with v, 
the fourth with h, the fifth with r. At the 
same time the letters were placed vertically 
below one another, so that the person search- 
ing could more easily observe them all and 
form the words desired. This may lead to an 
incredible facility. The very beautiful and 
intellectual Klotilde, Princess of Hessen- 
Rothenburg, guessed almost anything in a few 
moments, no matter whether it was German, 
French, or Italian. The players may tease 
one another by questions and answers, and a 

Learning to Read and Write 233 

thousand opportunities present themselves for 
attractively occupying the mind. 

All the useful and pleasing games which 
we learned in Berlin, Leipsic, etc., or else read 
about, we played with Karl, purposely con- 
fusing him, as much as the rule of the game 
allowed. Very often we arbitrarily modified 
the game, whenever we saw that it would thus 
be improved. This is very instructive, because 
one thus enters into the inner structure of the 
game, hence passes from the mechanical exe- 
cution of the rules to a conscious reasoning 
about them. When Karl later had mastered 
higher mathematics, it became an easy matter 
for him to play well every game that was 
based on calculation, to make changes in such 
games, or to invent entirely new, and often 
much more attractive, ones. I must confess, 
I was perplexed when he made the first at- 
tempt at this. 

I paid sleight-of-hand men to teach us some 
of their tricks and to explain others. I thus at- 
tained my object, which was that Karl should 
not only watch the performance, but should 
also try to find the key to this or that trick 
himself, in which he frequently was success- 

234 The Education of Karl Witte 

ful. As soon, however, as I noticed that he 
by his ability in imitation acquired what in 
the end is a useless art of winning admiration 
and applause, especially from the fair sex, I 
avoided such occasions, and, favored by cir- 
cumstances, I let him forget his tricks and 
his skill in them. Consequently, the rich 
spring of bubbling applause ran dry, even as 
I wished. 


On the Separation of Work and Play 

Abbe Gaultier is right — one may accomplish 
an unusual amount with children by means 
of a sensibly devised and guided game. I 
differ from him only in this, that I set aside 
every day a small amount of time for formal 
instruction, which is not given playfully, 
though merrily. At first I was moved to do 
this by my natural instinct. Later I pondered 
it carefully. Here are the fruits of my re- 

Since Gaultier has been practicing his 
method for thirty years, having worked it out 
in marvelous detail, his pupils should have 
become not only possessed of much knowl- 
edge, but should also have turned out to be 
men of great and particularly quick mental 
powers. One should hear in France of a num- 
ber of superior men, who have come from 
Gaultier's school, whereas this is not the case. 
What is the cause of it? I say: The boy who 


236 The Education of Karl Witte 

in his early years has learned everything play- 
fully, will continue to wish to learn in that 
manner. If he cannot do so, he will lose the 
desire for learning. If he enters business life, 
where there can be no thought of playing, 
where he will find everything determined ac- 
cording to order in place, time, and circum- 
stances; where iron necessity demands, now 
this activity, now that; and where the question 
is always of work, then he feels out of sorts, 
hankers for his former playing, and life ap- 
pears tiresome and annoying to him. He 
will, consequently, accomplish but little, no 
matter what may be expected of him. 

Therefore I stuck to my method, which was 
carefully to separate work from play. Each 
of these had and retained its specific manner. 
For example, in a game I liked to have Karl 
put his mental powers to full activity, and we 
tried to stimulate them, but that was not a 
requisite. If he did differently, we would 
perhaps act as though we did not notice it, 
or we would laugh at him, saying, "Oh, you 
little goose! is that all you know?" If his 
answer was not appropriate, not incisive 
enough, we would again jest him, "You are, 
indeed, still a very foolish little creature. 

Separation of Work and Play 237 

One sees that from your answers." He knew 
then precisely what we meant to convey, and 
was sure to try to be less foolish and simple. 

It was quite different in the case of work. 
At first I gave him a lesson of but fifteen 
minutes each day, but during these fifteen 
minutes he had to collect all his mental pow- 
ers. I would have become angry if he had 
not done so. He had to perform everything 
that was in his power to perform. During 
work every visit, every inquiry from my wife 
or the servant was rejected. I said decidedly, 
"I can't now! We are working!" or "Karl is 
having his lesson!" My wife and our inti- 
mate friends frequently gave me an occasion 
— out of love for Karl — to pronounce such 
earnest words with a somewhat gloomy ex- 
pression and with decided emphasis. The 
firmness in executing my purpose went so far 
that even our house-dog knew the emphasis 
of the words, "I must work!" and calmed 
down the moment we spoke these words softly 
into his ears. Almost from the outset this 
made an enormous impression upon Karl. 
He soon became accustomed to look upon his 
work-time as something sacred. 

And he had not only to work continuously, 

238 The Education of Karl Witte 

but also with as much vigor and rapidity as 
he could. I was impatient if he worked slow- 
ly, even though he did his work well. This 
has been of very great use to him ; it has given 
his mind an unusual quickness of perception. 
Things are often mere trifles to him, though 
they are very hard for others. He is done, 
when we only get ready. He thus gains very 
much time for other matters, for rest, society, 
and movement in the open, yet he does things 
better and more thoroughly than we do. 

In his later years he came properly to see 
and honor this invaluable gain. In Vienna 
he thanked me for it with tender emotion, 
assuring me that while he had not always 
understood why I demanded that he should 
work not only well but also fast, he was now 
deeply grateful to me for the great advantage 
he had derived from my insistence. 


Concerning Rewards 

We never rewarded Karl with money or 
things of value for a good deed. His pure 
joy at the success of an act; his pleasure at 
having overcome himself, and our fondling; 
the noting down of the occurrence in his 
"Book of Conduct"; the greater attachment 
of our friends; the firm conviction that God 
loved him so much the more, and that he now 
had the power of making one more step in the 
direction of goodness; finally (wherever it 
was possible to place them before him) the 
wholesome consequences of his good deed — 
that was all his reward. For he was con- 
vinced that every good act made him more 
like God, and his highest wish, his most earn- 
est endeavor, was to become like God. 

We acted in the very opposite way in the 
case of bad acts. Thank Heaven, he did not 
commit any, but even missteps were by us 
reproved very earnestly and with an expres- 


240 The Education of Karl Witte 

sion of sorrow. We spoke with the greatest 
contempt of a man, no matter who he may 
have been, who was the cause of an offense. 
I am sure that a million dollars could not 
have moved my son to offend any one know- 

But we had no compunction about making a 
monetary reward for his labors to acquire 
knowledge. On such occasions we pointed out 
to him that his efforts would sharpen his wits, 
but his wits were, in all our conversations, 
placed far below his heart, especially his spirit 
of piety. We assured him, and he experienced 
it in himself, that one could gain men's respect 
by knowledge and mental powers. But he re- 
spected the best more than the many: the love 
of the best men, of his parents, and of God 
was worth infinitely more to him than the 
respect of the masses. He knew also that the 
latter was unstable, the former stable. 

When he had worked hard, we only said, 
"That is right! You have done your duty, 
and I am satisfied with you!" and so forth. 
Then I told his mother or a friend about it 
in nearly the same words. A good action of 
his, however, was mentioned to him, to his 
mother, or to an intimate friend, with a joyous 

Concerning Rewards 241 

sensation, with a kind of ecstasy, as something 
sacred. In short, we had him keep in mind 
that diligent work was a preparation which 
made one happy in an earthly way, whereas 
noble actions gave one heavenly satisfaction. 

However, I allowed monetary rewards in 
case of work well done, as a kind of earthly 
recompense. In this I imitated business life 
as much as possible. So long as his labors 
were insignificant, I gave him extremely lit- 
tle, and he knew full well that he had not 
earned even that little, but that he received 
it as a visible recognition of his earnest en- 
deavor. Besides, I was careful not to satiate 
him in matters of rewards. I knew that re- 
wards easily passed into mere payments, and 
thus lost their higher value. But this was not 
to happen in the case of Karl. 

I am almost ashamed to mention the fact 
that for a day on which he had read German 
very well, and had otherwise behaved well, 
he received only one penny as a reward. But 
for this very reason I was able in later years, 
so long as such a direct reward was necessary 
on account of the boy's shortsightedness, to 
reward a particularly hard piece of work 
with a dime. Oh, with what joyous gratitude 

242 The Education of Karl Witte 

he used to receive such money! I am sure 
that many a person is not so happy when re- 
ceiving dollars! 

Wherever it was possible, I kept an en- 
nobled civic life in view. Our family was for 
him the State, I its regent, and he a servant 
of state. I demanded of him that for the weal 
of all, consequently of himself as well, he 
should exert his whole strength, that is, should 
do his duty, and should make himself more 
fit for doing useful work in the future. Con- 
sequently all that was written down in his 
"Book of Conduct" was that he had done 
what he should, that is, his duty. But I ac- 
cepted every piece of work done by him dili- 
gently and earnestly as something done for 
my benefit. And so I rewarded it with money. 
This view could be maintained the more easily 
since we — the State — provided for him. It 
was easy afterward for us to give and for him 
to grasp the more direct instruction of how 
matters were done in the State, since it fol- 
lowed from my representation. 

The money which he collected, on its side, 
gave an opportunity for preparation for the 
future. He learned how to manage it and 
do good with it. If he had spent it on sweet- 

Concerning Rewards 243 

meats, it would have disappeared very soon, 
and, with his manner of education, he would 
not have derived any real pleasure from this. 
Instead, he saved his money until he had a 
sufficient amount with which to buy some- 
thing lastingly useful. This we approved of 
and we even secretly added enough money to 
make up the needed amount, and frequently 
directed his attention to his possessions, to 
their usefulness and durability. In the end he 
often made a present of what he had bought 
to another child, and thus gained the grati- 
tude of children and the love of their parents. 
Whenever there was some misfortune in 
the neighborhood, we helped along according 
to our means, and we never neglected the 
three, six, or nine pennies which he offered 
under such circumstances. On the contrary, 
we accepted them with "sincere thanks" in 
the name of the unfortunates, and I sent them 
to them, even if the case demanded that I 
should change the pennies into so many dimes. 
His eight or twelve pennies for the organ 
stood in my private account close to my twenty 
dollars, and I explained to him that he had 
given at least as much as I, referring him to 
the excellent words of Christ about the poor 

244 The Education of Karl Witte 

widow's mite (Mark xii, 42-45), which he 
had long ago learned from the Biblical 

If, however, he had done his very best work 
but at the same time had transgressed against 
the laws of a higher morality, he received 
no money. If the transgression was small, I 
would say: 

"If to-morrow you will be as diligent as 
to-day, and at the same time will be good, you 
shall receive to-day's portion also." 

He was usually his own severest judge. He 
never became dissatisfied with the punish- 
ment, but rather melancholy at his faulty con- 
duct, at the worry which he thus had caused 
us, and at the loss of love and respect from 
the Highest. 

Very often he pronounced his own sen- 
tence, "No, I cannot get anything to-day, be- 
cause I did not conduct myself in the proper 
manner." God knows how hard it was for 
me then, for example, in the case of very small 
transgressions, not to give him anything. I 
would gladly have given him double the 
amount, and kissed him besides. I bravely 
repressed the tear of joy, and calmly said to 
him, "That is so, I did not think of it! But, 

Concerning Rewards 24.5 

my boy," and he was kissed none the less, "you 
must behave better to-morrow!" 

By this procedure we accomplished an in- 
credible amount of good. I wish all parents 
would do likewise for the good of themselves 
and of their children. 

As soon as a larger task was done, — for ex- 
ample, when a book was read through and 
translated, — he and I would call out in high 
jubilee, "Long live Gedike, or Jacobs, etc." 
That was a sign for his mother, who, however, 
had been secretly informed of it by me be- 
fore, that there was going to be a celebration. 

Such a celebration consisted in this, that 
his mother prepared one of Karl's favorite 
dishes, apple pie, waffles with warm beer, or 
even an omelet with wine sauce, etc., for his 
supper; that the table was festively set; but 
especially that his father had a bit of joyous 
news to tell about Karl's diligence and zeal, 
about his persistence, his progress, his in- 
creased mental powers, the contents of the 
book just finished and the one to be begun. 
Thus was the simple supper seasoned. Gen- 
erally his mother or an intimate friend, who 
pretended to have dropped in by accident or 
had been invited by Karl, had the king of 

246 The Education of Karl Witte 

the feast tell something from the book just 
studied, and this gave him much pleasure. 

Gratitude toward God for the power and 
health given us for the work successfully com- 
pleted was never forgotten on such occasions, 
and his mother would remind him that he also 
owed thanks to his teacher for the pains taken 
with him. 


How Karl Learned the Languages 

In Karl's sixth year we made a long journey 
to Berlin and Rostock, and on our way back 
visited our brother-in-law, Preacher Seide at 
Stendal. His youngest son, Heinrich, was 
two years older than Karl, a pretty, lovely 
boy. His stepmother and her sister, who both 
loved him tenderly, had taught him so much 
French that he read and translated very well, 
and spoke and wrote it tolerably well. That 
caused me so much pleasure that I warmly 
expressed my respect and love for the child 
and for his teachers. 

Louise, too, was heartily glad for her 
nephew, but at the same time was provoked 
at me, because "Karl did not yet know any- 
thing." I laughed at her, and assured her 
that Karl knew quite a lot, just as all our 
relatives and friends had asserted in her pres- 
ence. Of course, he could not know what I 
had not taught him. 

"Why do you not teach him?" she replied. 


248 The Education of Karl Witte 

"You know it, and it is really a shame for us 
that he is still so ignorant." I reminded her 
that the time was not yet ripe for it. She 
retorted, "It will not kill him now, and you 
cannot tell how long you may live, consider- 
ing the state of your health. It will certainly 
take a long time — so why should you be 

I smiled, and stuck to my idea. But when 
we went away from Stendal, and I on the 
way once more mentioned Heinrich with 
great pleasure, my wife again began to urge 
upon me. Finally I became annoyed, and 

"My dear, please do not make my journey 
unpleasant! I promise you I will teach Karl 
a foreign language as soon as we are back 
home. But I tell you I will not give him 
more than fifteen minutes each day for in- 
struction. I will teach him only to show you 
that he can learn when he is taught." 

"You will not forget, will you?" 

"Have I not always kept my word, when I 
have made a promise?" 

We were silent, and I thought of Heinrich 
and of Karl, and of the manner of the in- 
struction I was going to give. 

Learning the Languages 249 

I busied myself with thinking of this dur- 
ing the rest of our journey. If I had had 
complete command of Dutch and English (I 
understood both tolerably well), I should 
have begun with Plattdeutsch, which Karl 
to some extent knew already through my 
wife, through me, and through his frequent 
travels in northern Germany. Then I would 
have taken up in turn Dutch, English, 
French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and finally 

I should not have been afraid of the near 
relationship of German, Plattdeutsch, Dutch 
and English, because the Plattdeutsch is suf- 
ficiently differentiated from the German for 
an intelligent man to keep them easily apart. 
Karl would be called on to translate English 
and Dutch into correct German, but not Ger- 
man back into those languages, consequently 
there would be nothing to fear in the case of 
a properly instructed boy, while the learning 
of the languages would be very easy. 

I also wish to remark that in theory the 
Greek language unites many things which 
make it easy to learn immediately after a 
thorough knowledge of German has been 
acquired. Both have the article, decline the 

250 The Education of Karl Witte 

nouns, etc., conjugate the verbs, build up the 
sentence, compound words, and so forth. 
But who speaks or writes Greek? Where is 
now the ancient Greece? Have we a Greek 
children's world? In what way are we to 
stimulate a child's desire to study Greek, or 
show him its usefulness? And, finally, al- 
though I read Greek with ease and pleasure, 
I was far better acquainted with French and 
Italian. And all this is, in teaching lan- 
guages, of far more importance than most 
people would be willing to admit. 

In the end I chose, after mature reflection, 
to start by teaching Karl the French lan- 
guage. Here are my reasons for it: 

I consider it a duty to teach a child only 
that with which he has formerly become in- 
directly acquainted. This was exactly the 
case with Karl as regards French. I both 
spoke and read that language. He was fre- 
quently in company where I had to speak it. 
Those with whom I conversed in it he re- 
spected and loved on account of their exten- 
sive knowledge, but it pained him to listen 
without being able to tell what they were 
laughing about. My friends and I generally 
chose French for intimate conversations. He 

Learning the Languages 251 

had also noticed that we were sometimes talk- 
ing about him. If he later inquired about 
what had been said, I purposely gave him 
such answers as only roused his curiosity 
still more, and then I would add: 

"If you only understood French! It would 
give you much pleasure and gain respect for 

It is true that a boy who has mastered Latin 
may with ease pass over to the daughter lan- 
guages, Italian, French, and so forth. But it 
is equally true that instruction in Latin be- 
fore instruction in the foreign languages must 
appear as something stupid and noisome to 
a German boy, especially if by that time his 
spirit has been properly trained. Otherwise, 
to be sure, he patiently accepts everything 
like an empty bottle. 

They say that he who knows the mother 
well may easily become acquainted with her 
daughters. I say to this that he who knows 
the daughters well will more certainly and 
more quickly become intimate with their 
mother. For a younger person it is, besides, 
easier to make the acquaintance of the daugh- 
ters before that of the mother. 

And to the assertion that he who knows 

252 The Education of Karl Witte 

Latin will find it easier to learn Italian, 
French, etc., I further answer: 

"Very well! If I am on the roof of a 
building, it is not hard for me to get to the 
third, second, first story, and finally to the 
basement. But how shall I get on the roof? 
It would surely be more sensible — as it is 
easier and safer — first to enter the basement, 
then to ascend to the first story, the second, 
the third, and so forth. In this manner I can 
finally reach the roof, and that, too, in such 
an easy way that I scarcely notice it. The 
difficulty connected with this is as nothing 
in comparison with the attempt to reach the 
top from the outside. Besides, I can proceed 
with less danger, because I proceed in a nat- 
ural way, and it will hardly take as much 
time on my way up as on the much praised 
old way." 

When I say to a bright child "pater," he 
will immediately reply, "That means 'father.' 
But where is 'the'?" If I say, "It is con- 
tained in the word 'pater,' " he will laugh 
and retort, "That is impossible," or, more 
likely, "stupid." If, assuming that he al- 
ready knows the German declensions, he 
hears that "of the father" is translated by 

Learning the Languages 253 

"patris," he will stare at me or become im- 
patient, because it is unthinkable to him that: 
"of the" should be wanting in the declension. 
It is quite different with the French. If I 
say to my pupil, " 'Father' is *le pere,' " he 
is satisfied, and so he is when he hears that 
"of the father" is "du pere." 

But I pass over to the verbs. If I say, 
" 'iEdifico' means 'I build,' " the boy becomes 
confused and immediately asks, "Where is the 
'I'?" But it is perfectly clear to him that 
"je batis" means "I build." The same is true 
of "aedificas," "thou buildest," "tu batis," etc. 
In the plural the Latin appears as a rule still 
more senseless to children. 

This takes place in the case of a bright, or 
rather well-prepared, boy, for the dull, or un- 
prepared, or improperly prepared boy takes 
everything in that he is told, especially what 
is written down in a book — in, for example, 
the incontrovertible grammar. He goes 
ahead learning, even the utterly to him in- 
comprehensible "singular, plural, nomina- 
tive," etc. In fact, he is frightened when he 
is for the first time asked whether he under- 
stands those stock words. And so in after 
life he will not understand hundreds of 

254 The Education of Karl Witte 

things, which he will prejudge in a short- 
sighted and coarse manner, demanding that 
others should accept his incorrect view, only 
because he calls himself learned. 

Or, take the past tense, for example, "I 
have built, aedificavi." The child must feel 
quite uncomfortable with it. How much 
more natural it is, "je, I; have, ai; built, 
bati." So with "Thou hast built," etc. Still 
more perplexing is the subjunctive. Intelli- 
gent children are, in the customary manner 
of instruction, tormented for a long time by 
it, without ever gaining a clear insight into 
it. I marvel how this can even for a moment 
be doubted. I may add that in the past twen- 
ty years a number of bright young men have 
grasped my idea and that many children 
have since been taught in accordance with it. 

I first searched out that which coincided 
most closely with the German and rendered 
it exhaustively into German words. That 
may generally be accomplished, and the 
child retains it at once, thinks of it at an- 
other juncture, and then translates the words 
correctly. If some irregularity turned up, I 
said, for example, "Now that is nice! Here 

Learning the Languages 255 

'dire' does not mean 'tell,' but 'to tell' (that 
is, in the expression 'pour me dire')." The 
child does not mind a thing like that, if it 
recurs regularly, because he has been finding 
and removing difficulties before. The sen- 
tence, "J'ai entendu, qu'on m'a appelle. Est 
il vrai?" I treated in the following manner. 
I resolved "j'ai" into "je" and "ai," and jest- 
ingly remarked that the French considered 
"j'ai" as more agreeable to the ear than "je 
ai," and that they were not entirely wrong in 
this. After a while Karl began to feel the 
same way himself, and he took the part of 
the French. " 'Je ai' or 'j'ai' means 'I have,' 
and 'entendu' means 'heard.' " It was not 
necessary to say anything about "qu'on." He 
may have asked himself, "Is this not the 
same as in the case of 'je ai'?" and similarly 
he would say that "m'a" was contracted from 
"me a." "Me — me, a — has, appelle — called. 
Est — is, il" (he immediately understood the 
drawing over of t to est, because it was based 
on a similar principle) "he, or it." At this 
point I interposed, "You must find out for 
yourself which of the two is to be used. All 
I will tell you for the purpose is that 'vrai' 

256 The Education of Karl Witte 

means 'true.' " No sooner had I said this 
than he answered correctly, " 'II' here means 
'it.' " 

It will be objected that this is a kind of 
crippled translation, and that the pupil would 
thus get used to a poor German. But I can 
assure the reader from long experience that 
such is not the case. It may be true to some 
extent of Latin, because the sentence struc- 
ture differs too much from that of the Ger- 
man. But it does not hold in the case of 
French. If, besides, the pupil has become 
accustomed to speak a pure and fluent Ger- 
man, he will, it is true, at first translate as 
mentioned above. But as soon as the sen- 
tence is finished, he will repeat it in correct 
German. Let us, however, assume the almost 
unthinkable case that he would not do so, I 
should still by far prefer his precise and ex- 
haustive word-for-word translation to giving 
the sentence in good German, as is usually 
done, without clearly understanding each 

"But what will you put in place of analy- 
sis?" I am asked. Why, I let Karl first mas- 
ter common sense and the German language, 
derive, decline, transpose, and substitute the 

Learning the Languages 257 

separate words, etc., and exercise his reason. 

After that the translation from a foreign 
language was treated precisely like the read- 
ing of a German author. The main point was 
that Karl should get the exact meaning of the 
passage. If, therefore, a word or phrase was 
not clear to him, he thought it over or asked 
us. If he failed to do so, we asked him. In 
short, he became accustomed to the desire to 
understand everything. With the above-men- 
tioned method he was never in the dark, for 
it is a boon to a boy brought up in this man- 
ner to get an account of the various cases in 
which a word may occur. He considers it a 
great kindness to have it looked up for him 
in the grammar, have it read to him, or 
pointed out where in the future he may find 
words similarly declined. 

Hence, whenever Karl was translating, the 
dictionary lay to the right, and the grammar 
to the left of him. For the same reason, I 
prefer for a beginner such readers as have 
small dictionaries attached to them, for the 
looking up of words in the large dictionary 
may still be too troublesome and confusing. 
Some readers have also a small grammar con- 
nected with them, but I have made no use 

258 The Education of Karl Witte 

of these, because a child should from the start 
become accustomed to the grammar which he 
is to use later. Habit is of extreme impor- 
tance here, and the finding of the particular 
references may be made easy by marks stuck 
between the leaves, thus making extracts from 
them unnecessary. 

Karl never translated without having an 
exhaustive idea of every expression and with- 
out being ready to render it into German. He 
was, therefore, all the time deeply concerned 
in knowing how the troublesome word was de- 
clined, whether it was in the singular or in 
the plural, whether a noun or adjective, 
whether masculine or feminine, etc. 

One will observe that he, too, analyzed, 
but (1) he himself had the desire to do so, 
and this is, as in all instruction, the important 
point; (2) he analyzed for a particular pur- 
pose, and that was, in order to grasp the con- 
text completely. Consequently he was never 
satisfied until he found out, at first with my 
aid, later by himself, everything which would 
clear up his doubts. At the same time he paid 
attention to everything that stood in close re- 
lation with the particular case, and, since he 
was used to regularity, clearness, etc., he was 

Learning the Languages 259 

sure not to look anything up in the dictionary 
or grammar without purposely noticing many 
other things connected with it, thus exercising 
his memory and reason; (3) he analyzed sen- 
sibly, with a clear consciousness of what he 
was doing. Manifestly such an investigation 
of the words in a sentence is infinitely more 
useful than the usual mode of analyzing. 

I frequently said, with due consideration, 
"If you want to know this precisely, you will 
do well to look it up in the grammar, in the 
dictionary, etc.," and thus I led him deeper 
into the subject than he had anticipated. 

But there are other important reasons why 
I purposely taught him French before Latin. 
In French we are dealing with the present 
world, instead of one dead for millenniums 
and therefore foreign to the child. The little 
reader finds in his book our customs, our hab- 
its, our climate, our buildings, rooms, utensils, 
our society, our culture, our social intercourse, 
our garments, our entertainments, amuse- 
ments, and so forth. He consequently always 
feels at home, whereas Rome and Greece, 
especially with the usual method of instruc- 
tion, remain an alien and less attractive world 
to him. Nearly all the incidents in an author 

260 The Education of Karl Witte 

of modern times seem to have happened in the 
boy's vicinity, while stories from ancient 
Rome and Greece all the time remind him 
forcibly of the great difference between their 
world and his surroundings. This in itself 
would be sufficient to characterize the instruc- 
tion which begins with Latin and Greek as 
putting the cart before the horse. But my 
main reason is still to come. 

I am indeed convinced that a child will be 
glad to learn reading any language, and will 
acquire it profitably, only if he is given easily 
understood writings, best of all such as have 
been written with care for children. The 
child is to find in them a children's world, 
if possible. The arena, the actions, and the 
persons should be childlike (not childish) , and 
we in Germany are particularly fortunate in 
possessing many excellent books of the kind. 
The French and the English, even the Ital- 
ians, have for this reason translated the better 
German books for children, although they are 
wary in translating our other literary works. 
We rejoice in this advantage, and we make 
use of it in our language. Should we not do 
the same in a foreign, that is, a more difficult, 
language? Should we here purposely push 

Learning the Languages 261 

the children's world aside, and lead our dar- 
lings upon a desert steppe that for them is 
filled with thorns and thistles? I cannot be a 
party to it, for they will wander about dis- 
heartened in it, and they will bring back few 

But give them funny little stories from their 
circle, such as are found in a well-prepared 
reader, and all those who have received the 
right kind of an education will eagerly learn 
the language in which they are written. They 
will gladly make the necessary efforts of mind 
and memory, and will quickly and easily 
overcome obstacles, because their work gives 
them pleasure. It will not take long before 
they will of their own accord read beyond the 
task set them, and you will attain what you 
wish to attain, if you are sensible. All that is 
needed besides is an intelligent guidance, and 
the children attain to higher perfection by 

I gave Karl as quickly as possible Berquin's 
"Ami des Enfants," which can be bought very 
cheaply of Grieshammer at Leipsic. He read, 
I believe, through eighteen numbers of it, in 
high glee, and rejoiced especially whenever 
he there found the translation of a German 

262 The Education of Karl Witte 

juvenile story with which he was already ac- 
quainted. He would read ten pages of it 
without being asked to do so, and soon learned 
so much from it that I had to pass to more 
difficult writings. He was attracted by the 
childlike, droll, witty material, drawn from 
his circle, that was so simple for comprehen- 
sion and appealed to his reason and heart. 
This made his none too hard labor pleasant 
for him. 

It would have been quite another thing, if 
I had begun with Latin and had at once given 
him Cornelius Nepos, as generally happens. 
I will mention only a few of the resultant dif- 
ficulties, as compared with Berquin. The 
language of Nepos has long been dead. No 
man speaks it. It is not native to any country. 
Hence the child foresees no reward for his 
efforts, and. yet any child, no matter how un- 
reasoning it may be, must always have that 
clearly placed before its eyes. Besides, that 
language has no article; it declines and conju- 
gates differently from our language; it places 
the words in the sentence so differently, so 
bluntly, and often with such intricacy that 
even grown persons find it hard to make out 
the sense. 

Learning the Languages 263 

All that refers only to the external side. 
The internal side is much worse off. Books 
such as I require are made for children. Cor- 
nelius Nepos, Julius Caesar, Cicero, and so 
forth, wrote for men, for republicans, hence 
for statesmen, and for men who lived two 
thousand years ago. Cornelius, more espe- 
cially, wrote for grown-up Romans, who ruled 
over Greece, partly studied there, and there- 
fore were more or less acquainted with Greek 
language, literature, and manners. He wanted 
to be helpful to them by a terse and succinct 
account of the deeds of great Greek generals 
and their campaigns, for they needed mere 
hints as to names, places, time, and so forth. 
It did not harm them when he mentioned 
vices of every kind, even the most unnatural, 
without any sense of shame. According to 
their code of morals, their religion, it was 
permissible, or at least excusable, if Alcibiades 
honorably distinguished himself among the 
Persians and Thracians as a debauchee and 

But what impression will all that produce 
on an innocent, Christian child? What is 
such a little creature to do with the master- 
piece of military tactics which Caesar, under 

264 The Education of Karl Witte 

special circumstances, invented anew or modi- 
fied, and which he described, indeed, in a 
masterly way, but one which is almost too 
much abbreviated even for an advanced war- 
rior? What is he to do with the legal and 
political writings of Cicero? Or with his 
Graeco-Roman philosophical works, by which 
he wanted to win the best men of Rome over 
to the most profound investigations of Greece? 
Of what good to a boy of ours are Cicero's 
letters to his "intimate" friends, since Cicero 
all the time takes for granted much they very 
well knew, but which our boys neither guess 
at, nor want to guess at, and of which nine- 
tenths of their teachers know precious little? 
If a boy has painfully plowed his way through 
Cornelius, even as I did, what has he gained 
from it? I know but few useful results from 
it, and a great mass of harmful ones. 

On the other hand, how rich the gain is for 
the intellect, imagination, wit, and heart if 
the boy has attentively read and finished a 
German or French book appropriately writ- 
ten for German or French children! I am 
sure I shall be wasting time and labor and 
undervaluing my readers' intelligence if I say 
anything more about this. I will only add 

Learning the Languages 265 

that I consider it a sin against our intelligence 
and that of our children, to begin with the 
philosophy of language, that is, with gram- 
mar, and to treat only incidentally, or allow 
to follow later, the language treasure, that is, 
the very subject which is to be judged and 
regulated. I proceeded in the reverse order, 
and that did my son a great deal of good. 

But, it will be remarked, "The reading of 
French is so very difficult, whereas the read- 
ing of Latin is easy." That is true — a proof 
that objections may be raised against anything. 
But it did not bother me, when I wanted to 
instruct Karl, and Karl wanted to be in- 
structed. I at first gave him such words as 
were pronounced as with us, then such as dif- 
fered a little, and so forth. 

At the same time I united earnest with jest. 
Earnest — for I taught him at once the correct 
pronunciation of the French letters, and 
showed him a mass of cases where it actually 
was used. Jest — because even in the case of 
the German words which are written irregu- 
larly, I had frequently said, "This shows how 
silly we still are, for, instead of writing 'tuhn,' 
we write 'thun,' and so forth. The French 
are even sillier in writing, or, rather, in the 

266 The Education of Karl Witte 

pronunciation of what they have written." 
So he looked upon it as being funny, and it 
even gave him pleasure to busy himself with 
the senseless stuff, because he treated it, now 
as a trick, now as a puzzle, now as a maze, in 
dealing with which he had to bring light and 
clearness. I aver as an honest man that in 
this way he learned French with incredible 
rapidity. What differed most from the norm 
was mentioned to him with the greatest ridi- 
cule, and, upon occasion, in a farcical man- 
ner; or he was reminded of it at table or dur- 
ing a walk, by saying, for example, "Oh, this 
is almost as sensible as the French pronun- 
ciation of 'monsieur'!" 

I should like to mention here in general 
that our children would learn a great deal 
more if we looked less imposing during our 
lectures. I am opposed to the method of 
teaching wholly through play, yet I consider 
it necessary to combine jest with earnestness. 
My beloved and honored teacher, Gedike, al- 
ways did so. 

Karl frequently learned difficult things eas- 
ily, because I offered them to him in a merry 
and a light way, while slight difficulties fright- 

Learning the Languages 267 

ened him if I or some one else assumed an 
official mien, or presented the subject in a 
cold, stiff, anxious, indistinct, or confused 

What is bad, I might say what is abomina- 
ble, is that much is taught which the teacher 
himself does not master. Just as most Ger- 
man actors do not know their parts well, hence 
anxiously look and listen to the prompter and 
speak in long-drawn-out and incorrect pas- 
sages, not thinking of the correct expression, 
proper action, and easy playing, and thus an- 
noying and tiring out the spectator; so do the 
teachers fail in their purpose who do not mas- 
ter the subject of instruction, do not know it 
from all sides, do not present it lightly to the 
child. Instead of joy the hearer will experi- 
ence a sense of burden, instead of active par- 
ticipation, ennui and disgust. He who teaches 
children, stopping to think about his subject, 
or sticking to what has just been read, or fre- 
quently looking into the text-book, will not 
be able to impart much to them. I have ex- 
perienced this in my own case and in the case 
of others, at first as a pupil, and later as a 
teacher, but fortunately I have had also the 

268 The Education of Karl Witte 

opposite before my eyes. For this reason I 
taught my son only what I could in the high- 
est degree call my own mental property. 

If I had wanted to hurry, I should have 
given Karl an hour's instruction each day, in- 
stead of fifteen minutes, or should have had 
recourse to the conversational method. But 
I was afraid of prematurity and did only 
what I had to, at Louise's request. In a few 
months I joyfully observed that the child was 
gaining and wanted to study more; so I gave 
him half an hour, after a while a little more, 
and toward the end of the year an hour each 
day. Karl got only pleasant things for his 
reading. He was given, for example, "Robin- 
son Crusoe," which he knew already from the 
German, and which he later translated from 
nearly all the languages. In a year he was 
so far advanced that he could with pleasure 
read an easy French book without my aid. I 
then began speaking French with him, and 
passed on to the study of Italian. This was 
so easy for him that he made as much progress 
in it in six months as he had made in French 
in a year. The longest study period now 
lasted an hour and a half. 

Karl had learned to know and to overcome 

Learning the Languages 269 

any peculiar difficulties which had occurred 
in either language. So I hoped that he would 
no longer be afraid of Latin. I should have 
hoped not in vain, but a large number of 
grown persons and of his young friends, espe- 
cially two pupils at my house, had frequently 
spoken to him of Latin as something extremely 
disagreeable, difficult, and useless, and so he 
had an anxiety and prejudice against it. 

I was not able to remove these, since, from 
what I said above, I could not promise him 
either ease or great pleasure. Nor did I see 
clearly how I could make its usefulness mani- 
fest to him as in the case of the modern lan- 
guages. To have assured him that he could 
become a learned man only through the 
knowledge of Latin would have been of no 
avail, for he could have answered rightfully 
that he did not care to become a learned man, 
but rather a well-rounded, cultured man, 
which he certainly might do without Latin. 
He had several examples of this kind before 
his eyes, and uncountable examples of learned 
men without true culture of mind or heart. 
There was, therefore, nothing left for me to 
do but to assure him, upon good faith and 
through my nearest friends, that the study of 

270 The Education of Karl Witte 

Latin was important and necessary. I also 
frequently spoke in his presence of the beau- 
ties of the iEneid and of separate works of 
Cicero. For what honest man, who is not 
a self-satisfied scholar, can recommend to his 
son the works of Ovid, Terence, Suetonius, 
Horace, and so many other Latin and Greek 
classics, without trembling for his morality? 
Only a learned "aes triplex circa pectus" can 
assuage conscience, if the boy should become 
a drunkard, a debauchee, or given to unnatural 
vices, for have not the most shameful incite- 
ments toward it, and the most violent stimuli 
for his passions, been given into his hands as 
something extremely praiseworthy? 

Accordingly, when Karl had command of 
his Latin, I did something quite unusual. I 
used to speak of some author, for example 
Horace, with high respect as a poet, man of 
the world, and philosopher, and with the ut- 
most contempt as a drunkard and debauchee. 
I never said in such a case that he drank, but 
that he was a drunkard, a sot. For expres- 
sions such as "to appropriate" for "to steal," 
"not to tell the truth" for "to lie," "not indus- 
trious" for "lazy," do an incredible amount 
of harm in common life, and much more in 

Learning the Languages 271 

education. Vice is most dangerous in an at- 
tractive garment. My judgments of the au- 
thors had a good effect on Karl, though they 
might have been harmful in the case of hun- 
dreds of other boys. He had faith in me and 
judged like me, for he respected and loved me 
devotedly. Besides, he had been accustomed 
not to want to read a thing if I said, "It is not 
good for you!" but especially if my face indi- 
cated contempt or disgust. Children brought 
up in the ordinary way strive so much the 
more to read what is prohibited, or to talk 
about it with others. Unfortunately such pas- 
sages are, as a rule, the only ones which are 
appropriated by them to the full extent. 

Yet, in spite of all I have said above, I 
could not overcome my misgivings, and so I 
chose an edition of Horace which at that time 
was expurgated as regards the vilest matter, 
and I liked it well. Of course, there were not 
wanting those who asserted that in that way 
he could not become a great Latin scholar, 
and that those passages did less harm than 
usually supposed, and so forth. I listened to 
their balderdash and pitied their pupils, since 
their innocent minds could not help being 
ruined by those shameless atrocities. 

272 The Education of Karl Witte 

I mentioned above why I could not recom- 
mend Caesar to Karl. Livy is for a child too 
earnest, too dry. Especially his introduction 
is much too difficult. I should have chosen 
the fables of Phaedrus least of all, because I 
myself had to suffer the torture of beginning 
with them. 

A happy circumstance helped me out of my 
perplexity as to how to lead Karl over to 
Latin. I was frequently at Leipsic with Karl, 
attending the theater, the concert, in short, 
everything worth seeing. Once they played 
the "Stabat Mater," and at the entrance they 
gave me the text for it. Karl had been accus- 
tomed to having the contents of this kind read 
or translated to him. During the symphony 
we were sitting in a side-room, and I said to 
him, "Do translate this!" He took it, then 
looked for a moment perplexedly at it, and 
said, "This is neither French nor Italian. It 
must be Latin." I replied, laughing, "Let it 
be what it may, if only you can translate it. 
Try at least!" He tried, and I helped him, 
especially by pronouncing the harsh Latin 
sounds somewhat softer, almost like Italian, 
for example, "stava't," "mader," "dolorosa," 
etc. Coming to words like "juxta," I helped 

Learning the Languages 273 

him out by saying, "You do not know this, it 
means so and so." "Crucem" I pronounced 
as in Italian; the c in "lacrimosa" almost like 
g, and so forth. In fine, we translated it with 
fair rapidity and merrily to the very end. 
He said, with joy, "If that is all there is to it, 
I should like to learn Latin!" "Of course, 
that is all, and, in case of need, I can help 
you out." The very next day I hunted up 
the Latin "Robinson" and other easy readers 
which are appropriate for children. 

I began with these, caring precious little 
whether the language was Ciceronian or not. 1 
It took nine months before Karl had accom- 
plished as much in Latin as he had in Italian 
in six months, although the two daughter lan- 
guages, which he had already acquired, had 

1 Of course, one should not choose the "Epistolae Ob- 
scurorum Virorum" or give children similar books. Most 
important of all is it to bear in mind that a child may best 
be led to a complete comprehension of the Latin classics 
by beginning with a good translation of German juvenile 
books, and it will be accomplished much more rapidly, be- 
cause the child likes to read them and out of curiosity will 
frequently read ahead of the daily task. At the same time 
his intellect is kept immeasurably more active; his knowl- 
edge is greatly increased and rectified; and, what is most 
important, his heart remains pure and may even be ennobled. 
Then one may pass over to the ^Eneid, to some of the more 
attractive writings of Cicero, and to a few other, morally 
pure or, at least, purified classics, and the child will learn 
his Latin fast enough. 

274 The Education of Karl Witte 

prepared the way to a very considerable ex- 
tent. A number of deviations from the Ger- 
man were already known to him, and they 
seemed natural to him. Other deviations he 
did not mind, because he had been brought 
by degrees to these, for a German child, un- 
natural forms. 

At the end of the time mentioned I lived 
with him for six weeks at my quarters in 
Halle, staying there for several days each 
week, and I employed the services of an ex- 
pert teacher of languages for the pronuncia- 
tion of English. During the hour Karl stud- 
ied together with me. After it we repeated 
the old and prepared the new lesson together. 
English now became so easy to him that he 
understood as much of it in three months as 
of the others in six or nine month 

How difficult, however, the Greek language 
is for a German child, I found in my own 
case, in the case of numberless friends, and 
especially in that of Karl. He wanted to learn 
it; I had told him so much about Homer, 
Xenophon, Plutarch, and most of all about 
a mass of lovely flowers from the Greek world 
which are collected in our best readers, that 
he was anxious to acquire them. Yet, al- 

Learning the Languages 275 

though Greek is an elder sister of German, 
the two sisters have, through time and circum- 
stances, developed such different idioms that 
it is very difficult for a German child to learn 
Greek. "Graeca sunt, nee leguntur" has be- 
come especially clear to me since my last ex- 

Even before beginning Greek with Karl, I 
had given him, at his urgent request, two or 
three months' instruction in it in secret — that 
is, from his mother and other friends — each 
lesson lasting fifteen minutes, and he had 
worked hard at it. I then somewhat increased 
the lessons, to please him, or I gave him an ad- 
ditional lesson of fifteen minutes, say, in the 
evening, when he asked for it in particular. 
And yet, after three months, he was discour- 
aged and thought he would never learn it, and 
it took him nine months to be as far in Greek 
as he had been in the other languages in a 
shorter time. But, as soon as these first diffi- 
culties were overcome, he made very good 

I think I can hear two objections. First, 
people will say, "How many hours did you 
use, to keep all the languages mentioned go- 
ing? The child must have been sitting all 

276 The Education of Karl Witte 

day at the desk, hence he must have become 
stupefied!" Experience has shown the re- 
verse, and, with my method of instruction, 
must prove it absolutely. But these people 
are absolutely right, if they have in mind that 
which is taking place at present. If I had 
begun with Latin or Greek, or if I had not 
carefully prepared the child's intellect; if I 
had neglected to teach Karl to speak excellent 
German in the first five years of his life; if I 
had not roused his love for the foreign lan- 
guages in many ways, and had not laid their 
great usefulness clearly before his eyes; if I 
had not gotten him used to work rapidly, 
while sparing him from those abominable 
"versions" which take away hours at a time 
and accustom a boy to dilly-dallying; the in- 
struction in four or five languages all at once 
would have been a sheer impossibility, if for 
nothing else than lack of time. 

As it was, everything went excellently. The 
moment Karl had brushed aside the chief dif- 
ficulties, I gave him only fifteen minutes a day 
in which, for example, to continue his French. 
During that period he had to read for himself 
a considerable passage, looking up everything 
he did not know in the dictionary and gram- 

Learning the Languages 277 

mar, in order to give me an exhaustive account 
of it in German. At the end of his study pe- 
riod I would quiz him here and there. I 
generally knew where to look for the diffi- 
culties — and then I had him recite to me, now 
literally, now in choice German. If two such 
passages went off well, I considered his work 
done well in every way. It is incredible what 
rapidity, besides precision, a boy may gain 
by this way of working. He is kept mentally 
busy, and so advances with all due speed. The 
mechanical writing retards him, causes him 
ennui, and tires him even of the most attrac- 
tive passage. Try both methods for any length 
of time, — but do it honestly— and then pass 

Besides, while out walking, traveling, etc., 
we at first conversed frequently in French, 
later in Italian, and finally also in Latin or 
English. One may see that a boy, if he is 
willing, may in this manner accomplish very 
much by employing at most three hours each 
day. Karl did not receive more instruction 
than that in Lochau, that is, up to his tenth 
year. Indeed, if I take into consideration the 
Sundays, the frequent travels, etc., he did not 
have more than two hours each day of actual 

278 The Education of Karl Witte 

instruction, before we went to Goettingen. 
But we frequently read together, or he by 
himself, in the long winter evenings, or in the 
afternoon of a rainy day, now a German book 
for children, now some select passages from 
foreign languages, which he (more rarely I) 
had found and wanted to read, or we recited 
some especially fine poems to one another. 

Second objection : "Your son must have con- 
fused the various languages." Since the great 
schoolman, noble Funk of Magdeburg, ex- 
pressed the same fear, I am not surprised 
when others do so. But Funk, like many 
others, became convinced of the contrary, 
hence I do not need to prove that it is pos- 
sible or has been accomplished, but need only 
to tell how it was done. This, of course, goes 
once more back to Karl's earliest years. Karl 
had to do everything correctly, had especially 
to speak good German, was not allowed, ex- 
cept in actual necessity, to introduce foreign 
words, and so forth. I demanded the same 
of him in his translations. I admitted noth- 
ing but pure German, absolutely nothing else. 
Besides, he had to be perfectly at home in a 
language before I began the next. That is 
all I did, and even envy has not been able to 

Learning the Languages 279 

find any fault with his translations, while our 
greatest philologists have praised him highly, 
both orally and in writing. 

I wish once more to decry that disastrous 
blunder people make who assert that without 
beginning with grammar, without that sense- 
less analyzing and without written exercises, 
it is not possible to learn to speak and write 
perfect Latin. I had so much facility in both, 
that Gedike was perfectly satisfied with me, 
and yet I never did any of those things. But 
I had read so much the more in the two lan- 
guages and made their contents my own. If, 
however, I should have started by teaching 
my son to speak and write "elegant" Latin, 
I do not believe I could have attained my 
purpose without crippling his intellect. 


Karl's Education in the Sciences 

It seems ridiculous to talk of this, for Karl 
could not receive any formal instruction in 
the sciences at Lochau. In the first place, 
this belongs to the university, and in the sec- 
ond, a preacher in the country lacks the neces- 
sary means for it. I had the required in- 
formation, or I could get it out of books, but 
not the mass of newer works, the necessary 
etchings, the costly instruments, the facility 
in experimentation, etc. I was, therefore, 
glad to forego it, but I none the less directed 
Karl's attention to a mass of scientific facts, 
without saying to him, "This belongs to nat- 
ural history, this to chemistry, this to physics, 
to ancient, or to modern geography, and so 

He became acquainted with natural his- 
tory in all its parts the moment he could think. 
The much improved edition of Raff was one 
of his playthings, and in Halle, Leipsic, and 


Education in the Sciences 281 

Merseburg he never failed to see the strange 
animals or anything else worth seeing. But 
most of all I used our travels for this purpose. 
The sea with its inhabitants, mines and shafts, 
smelters, steam-engines, air-pumps, a basalt 
mine, crater-like hollows on the tops of moun- 
tains, everything gave me an opportunity for 
instruction. Even at home, a dewdrop, my 
barometer, the thermometer, the noisy draught 
in firing a stove, the sweat on the window- 
panes, etc., — how much there is to tell a child 
about these and about hundreds of similar 
phenomena, if one has studied with any profit 
natural history, physics, and chemistry. 

I began my instruction in geography in the 
following manner: I took Karl as soon as pos- 
sible to all the villages which lay within the 
horizon of our tower. He was also taken often 
to Halle, Merseburg, Leipsic, etc. In clear 
weather I used to ascend the tower with him, 
taking with me a few sheets of white paper 
and a pencil. At first we drew (Karl did it 
more than I) the approximate contour of our 
village in the middle of the sheet, on an ap- 
propriately small scale, so that the rest would 
fit into the sheet. Then we put down a dot 
for the nearest village, Liebenau, and so forth 

282 The Education of Karl Witte 

for the other visible villages on every side. 
We at the same time wrote down their names. 
The rivers Saale and Elster, the forests, mead- 
ows, and fields were indicated upon it in red. 

When this was done, we showed it to his 
mother, and she made her remarks upon it. 
Then we went a second time to the tower, and 
made a good drawing of the map, which, for 
us at least, was sufficiently correct. Then we 
compared it with special maps of the Saale 
District, and corrected it in the light of the 
latter. That was all I did in order to give 
Karl a correct idea of geography, and to rouse 
his inclination toward it. He never after- 
ward returned from a journey but that he was 
able to give and indicate upon paper the ap- 
proximate distances of the places. When he 
was nine years old, he owned a collection of 
maps such as I have seldom seen in the pos- 
session of wealthy young men. We bought as 
many of them as we could, and many were 
given to him as presents. 

He had, besides, the maps of d'Anville, and 
he never read anything from ancient history 
but that he had them near at hand. I intro- 
duced him to history during our walks or 
upon our journeys, by stories, and employed 

Education in the Sciences 283 

for the same purpose historical paintings, 
etchings, etc. Mr. K. v. S. at Merseburg 
taught him a great deal of astronomy, by- 
means of his excellent instruments. I had 
previously done all that could be done with- 
out a telescope. He was really quite ad- 
vanced in these things when he was nine years 
old, but he would have been greatly surprised 
if he had been told that he had been studying 
geography, physics, and so forth. 

I had carefully avoided the use of such 
terms, partly in order not to frighten him, 
partly not to make him vain. He learned 
them and all other technical terms quickly 
enough, after he mastered that which they 
meant It was with these as with plural, 
nominative, subjunctive, etc. I did as though 
he was not to learn them, but as soon as the 
things were his, the names followed easily. 


The Cultivation of Taste 

I TOLERATED as far as possible nothing in my 
house, yard, garden, etc., that was not taste- 
ful, especially nothing that did not harmo- 
nize with its surroundings. If anything was 
not harmonious, I was uneasy about it until 
it was removed. All my rooms were papered 
with wall-paper of one color, the fields being 
surrounded by pleasing borders. In every 
room there was but little furniture, but such 
as there was was carefully selected. On all 
the walls hung paintings or etchings, but none 
of these was tastelessly glaring in colors, or 
represented an unpleasant subject. Our yard 
and garden were in bloom from earliest 
spring to very late in the fall. Snowbells and 
crocuses started the procession, and winter 
asters were only crushed by the snow or a se- 
vere frost. We ourselves were always dressed 
cleanly but simply. 

I never bought anything that was too mag- 
nificent for my circumstances, nor any pic- 


The Cultivation of Taste 285 

tures for Karl unless they were true and beau- 
tiful. If he was presented with a picture 
which did not come up to the mark, we in- 
spected it jestingly and made fun of what was 
not beautiful, especially of anything with 
glaring colors. On the other hand, we fre- 
quently admired the color schemes of flowers 
and birds. But if these were too brightly 
colored, we did not fail to remark upon it. 
Wherever we could obtain anything beau- 
tiful, we were sure to do so. Leipsic, Dessau, 
Woerlitz, Potsdam, Berlin, Rostock, Weimar, 
Dresden, the Saxon Switzerland, and so forth, 
furnished me opportunities enough to widen 
and correct Karl's conceptions of the beau- 
tiful. Leipsic and its fair! How much these 
few words mean! But Karl had known the 
two very well since early childhood. He had 
become acquainted with the beauties of Pots- 
dam and Berlin in his fifth year, and of Dres- 
den and its magnificent surroundings when he 
was only six years old. We visited the picture 
gallery there for days and weeks in succession, 
while Mengs's casts and the antiques were 
visited as often as possible, and the Green 
Vault twice. We never beheld men, horses, 
dogs, birds, houses, carriages, furniture, pic- 

286 The Education of Karl Witte 

tures, etc., but that we directed each other's 
attention to them and discussed them favor- 
ably or unfavorably. 

Karl learned very early to love and prop- 
erly to judge poetry. We began with the sim- 
plest poems and by degrees rose to the most 
sublime. The versification, rhyme, language, 
contents, gentle hints or allusions in these 
formed the subject of our common judgment 
The most beautiful of these Karl learned by 
heart very rapidly, if we recited them to him 
a few times on our walks or journeys. 

What was the case with German, soon also 
happened with French, and I aver that in all 
the languages which he learned he soon knew 
a mass of excellent poems by heart, because 
he read them several times for their beauty 
and thus retained them in his mind. I shall 
only mention Florian, Metastasio, Virgil, 
Horace, and Homer. Many a time, when I 
was particularly busy, he tortured me by read- 
ing or reciting to me long passages from the 
most beautiful poems. But I listened pa- 
tiently, in order not to spoil his pleasure. 
Heyne would not have written to Wieland the 
way he did, if Karl had not even then tried 
to penetrate the spirit of the ancients. 


Karl Goes to College 

Karl was now seven and a half years old, and 
his attainments appeared very striking to men 
of knowledge. One man told another about 
it. People wanted to examine him, and I al- 
lowed this to be done. The above-mentioned 
K. v. S. in Merseburg was among these, and 
he soon became Karl's fatherly friend. He 
did everything he could, with touching zeal, 
to instruct Karl, for that meant giving him 
pleasure. He did not value even the rarest 
wines of his cellar too highly, to let Karl 
taste of them, in order that he might get an 
idea of what they were like. His superb li- 
brary, etchings, instruments, — all these Karl 
could use as his own. Every time we two had 
to pass the night with him, on account of 
astronomical observations, he invited highly 
cultured men to his house. Thus several 
schoolmen became acquainted with Karl. 
One of these, Mr. T. L., asked permission 


288 The Education of Karl Witte 

to examine him before his students, in order 
to stimulate the latter. I hesitated for a long 
time, but finally I consented under the fol- 
lowing conditions: (i) Karl was to know 
nothing in advance of the examination; hence 
(2) L. was to come for me the following day, 
under the pretext that I should pass judg- 
ment on his pupils, and Karl was then to come 
with me; (3) the pupils were not to express 
their approbation; (4) we would sit down on 
a back bench and listen. Then a book might 
be handed to us, and so forth. All that was 
promised, and kept to the letter. 

A few weeks later there appeared in the 
Hamburger Correspondent the following an- 
nouncement. It was decisive for my son's 
whole later career, and so it is of great im- 
portance for every thinking man. The writer 
has never become known, but I believe that 
the noble man will surely be rewarded in a 
better world for his beautiful purpose. 

Mersebueg, May 10, 1808. 

A few days ago there happened here something very 
remarkable for pedagogy. The excellent teacher of our 
place, Mr. Tertius Landvogt, brought to the schoolroom, 
for the stimulation of his pupils, a small child of seven 
years and ten months. The little fellow listened atten- 

Karl Goes to College 289 

tively to the Greek lesson which was being recited; then 
Mr. T. L., who had met him the day before at the 
house of the very humane and cultured Kammerherr, 
Mr. von Seckendorf, and had examined his powers in 
the presence of several scholarly men, asked him to con- 
tinue the reading. To the astonishment of all the pu- 
pils he read and translated a perfectly strange passage 
from Plutarch, and answered several analytical questions 
to entire satisfaction. 

Now he was given Julius Csesar, and he translated 
from the passage where the pupils had stopped. He was 
also tested in analysis on the passage read and answered 
the questions very well. Then he translated from an un- 
known Italian book, which Mr. T. L. had brought, and 
conversed with his father in this language. Since there 
was no French at hand, Mr. T. L. spoke French with 
him, and he answered as fast is if it were German. Then 
he noticed on the wall a map of ancient Greece, and he 
asked permission to be allowed to look at it. Then he 
mentioned the chief cities and countries of Greece, and 
told about them and about several of their great men. 
When Sinope was mentioned, he said at once, "That is 
not here. We must look for it over there, on Pontus 
Euxinus," pointing to another map on another wall. The 
pupils carried the child there, and he showed them at 
once Sinope and told about Diogenes. He mentioned 
still more cities and countries, and at the same time 
gave their modern names. Finally he calculated a few 
problems in the rule of three without the use of paper. 

The main thing with all this is the vigorous health 
and vivacity, the tender, childlike manner and modesty 
of the boy, who does not seem to know how much he is 
the object of common admiration. 

His father is Preacher Dr. Karl Witte, of Lochau, 

290 The Education of Karl Witte 

well known in educational circles. Unfortunately Dr. 
Witte does not expatiate on his method of instruction, 
by which this prodigy, who widely differs from those of 
Heineke and Baratier, who were spoilt, partly in body 
and partly in mind, has been brought up and educated in 
such an indescribably fortunate manner. 

This news soon spread in all newspapers. 
Everybody read it, everybody asked, "Is it 
true? Can it be true?" Many doubters came 
to see me, others invited me to their houses. 
They all examined Karl suspiciously. But 
everybody left us with the conviction that the 
boy could do even more than the newspapers 
had told about him. Only jealous people near 
by and far away passed judgments, without 
even wishing to see him, to the effect that it 
was not true, because it could not be true. 
Such people usually wait until they find out 
which way the wind is blowing. In this way 
they are always swimming on top, and they 
have the advantage that no one can deny what 
they finally admit. God save us from such 
narrow-minded educators! They would like 
to suppress what is unusual, and would 
furnish us clever rather than noble-minded 
pupils. But men who do not merely skim 
off from the top of what is furnished to 

Karl Goes to College 291 

them, but enter into matters with their own 
minds, acted quite differently. They not in- 
frequently wrote to me and asked to have the 
child shown to them, and I never refused such 
a request. 

Some of the best men of the city and the 
university of Leipsic urged me to have my 
son examined for the university by the Rector 
of the Thomas School, Professor Rost. As I 
did not know the man, I was afraid that he 
would consider this step a bit of presumption, 
and so forth. So I flatly refused, saying that 
a large number of professors had already ex- 
amined my son. Finally I yielded. Professor 
Rost unites great learning with much sound 
sense and kindness of heart. He introduced 
my son into the arcana of the languages and 
sciences, while he thought that he was merely 
having a pleasant conversation. Here is his 

This day they brought before me the nine-year-old 
boy, J. H. F. Karl Witte, from Lochau, in order that 
I might examine him and pass on his intellect and in- 
formation. I put before him by no means easy passages 
from the Iliad, the iEneid, Guarini's "Pastor Fido," 
and a French work, from which he translated so well 
that he completely justified the continuous assurances of 
men who are capable of passing judgment, as well as the 

292 The Education of Karl Witte 

common reputation of his skill. For in the translation 
of the passages chosen by me at random, he not only 
showed a great skill in the verbal knowledge of the vari- 
ous languages, but he also evinced a deep insight into the 
science of antiquity, a maturity of judgment, a self-pos- 
session, and a superior power of all the other mental fac- 
ulties, such as I have never before seen in so youthful 
a being. I, therefore, am firmly convinced that the su- 
perior aptitudes of the boy and the most excellent edu- 
cational method of his father, who has trained his son 
all by himself, deserve the attention of scholars, who 
should carefully investigate and weigh these matters. I 
am convinced that it is very necessary, for the good of 
the sciences in general, and for the advancement of peda- 
gogy in particular, to give this boy of extraordinary mind, 
who is born for everything great, permission to attend 
all the lectures of the professors, for which he is un- 
questionably prepared; and that no hindrance through 
prejudice should be placed in his way, lest the hope of 
everything good for which God seems to have prepared 
him, should be crushed. 

Mag. F. W. E. Rost, 
Professor of Philosophy and Rector of the Thomas 

Leipsic, December 12, 1809. 

Professor Rost's statement was sent to the 
University of Leipsic, where consent was 
given for his admission as a regular student. 
This took place on January 18, 18 10, through 
the then Rector of the university, Mr. Kuehn. 
His excellent speech to Karl and me touched 

Karl Goes to College 293 

us both very much. I was particularly moved 
when the child gave a handshake, in place of 
the usual oath, that he would promptly keep 
the laws. After that Karl received his ma- 
triculation. Hereupon the University of 
Leipsic made an appeal to benevolent 
wealthy men, to secure my stay in Leipsic fof 
at least three years, so that my son should be 
able to attend the lectures, for which he had 
been found, upon a strict examination, fully 
mature and capable. Here is the appeal: 

The youthful, nine-year-old Karl Witte, son of Dr. 
Witte, Pastor at Lochau, represents to us a remarkable 
example of the fact that by a proper early education the 
mental powers of a child may be trained and brought 
to an almost incredible degree of maturity, and his mem- 
ory may be furnished with an amount and variety of in- 
formation in the first decade of his life, that would do 
honor to a youth of eighteen. This remarkable child has 
been translating, not at all mechanically, but with in- 
sight, facility, and deep sentiment, both the prose and the 
poetical writers, in French, Italian, English, Latin and 
Greek, and of this he has lately given astonishing proofs 
in the presence of the greatest experts, and also in the 
presence of His Majesty the King of Saxony, as well as 
the whole court. He showed a remarkably quick and 
well-guided comprehension, as well as an uncommon read- 
ing in history, the antiquities, ancient and modern geog- 
raphy, and the best poets. All this he owes entirely to 
his father, who until now has been his only teacher, and 

294 The Education of Karl Witte 

whose happy and properly employed gift of instruction 
is no less remarkable than the early education of his son. 

What withal removes the very shadow of a suspicion 
that all this is the work of an injurious and destructive 
effort of the child, is his health and childlike merriment, 
and the complete absence of any of the forwardness and 
intolerable arrogance displayed by wrongly educated 
youthful prodigies. His father, who, in conjunction with 
his excellent wife, has brought the child so early to this 
degree of knowledge, has the very natural and just de- 
sire of further educating him under his own guidance in 
a manner proportionate to his already acquired informa- 
tion; and there can be no doubt that if the child is 
further educated under the happy method and surveil- 
lance of his father, there should result therefrom some- 
thing unique and great, and without injury to the child's 
life and health. 

In the simple village, where the family now lives, it is, 
on account of the father's meager income, impossible to 
obtain the appropriate instruction in those branches of 
knowledge which the father does not himself master. It 
is, therefore, the father's sincerest wish to continue his 
son in some large city on the path on which he has been 
started, for at least three more years and under his per- 
sonal supervision. Nor can it be doubted that he, the 
loving father of his only son, who has done so much for 
his child in four years without the least injury to him, 
will also be able to use to good advantage the three 
years to come. But the manner in which this is to be 
accomplished can naturally not be determined by the 
views and prescriptions of those who have no concep- 
tion of the natural, as well as pure and thorough, edu- 
cational method of Dr. Witte. 

Dr. Witte needs for the execution of his plan the 

Karl Goes to College 295 

assured sum of at least two hundred and fifty dollars a 
year for the period of three years. If these two hundred 
and fifty dollars could be guaranteed, his parents would 
for three years stay in Leipsic, while his father's parish 
would meanwhile be administered and kept for him by 
somebody else, or he would be promised another, more 
profitable one by the royal Westphalian Government. He 
could use his stay in Leipsic, outside of instructing his 
son, partly for literary labors, partly and more especially 
for the instruction of other people's children, perhaps 
incidentally in order to instruct future educators in his 
method; hence he could even in this incidental way mul- 
tiply the usefulness of his stay here. 

The question is now whether our fellow-citizens will 
remain indifferent and inactive lookers-on of this phe- 
nomenon, and will be willing to bear the accusation that 
they have knowingly neglected the cultivation of such a 
rare plant. 

In the firm conviction that such a thing is unthinkable 
in the case of the noble inhabitants of Leipsic, we here- 
with invite those whom Providence has placed in a posi- 
tion to further such a beautiful work, to assure by sub- 
scription the sum of at least two hundred and fifty dol- 
lars for three years to young W:*te, for this is the only 
condition under which his parents can properly continue 
their work here in Leipsic. Since the boy is now able, 
of course accompanied by his father, to attend profitably 
several academic lectures, the university has to-day 
granted the young Witte the right of academic citizen- 
ship, for which, after a strict examination, he was found 
entirely mature and capable. 

Karl Gottlob Kuehn, 
Rector of the University. 
Leipsic, January 18, 1810. 

296 The Education of Karl Witte 

Instead of two hundred and fifty dollars the 
generous people of Leipsic soon subscribed 
five hundred, besides offering me free quar- 
ters and two stipends, not counting what the 
King was going to do. The condition was 
that we should stay in Leipsic. I went with 
Karl to Kassel, in order to obtain there the 
necessary consent. But the King was not there. 
The next morning I called on Mr. von Leist. 
He had great prejudices against me and my 
son, but soon became fond of him. He ex- 
amined him for three hours, and marveled at 
his knowledge, and asked me about my meth- 
od of instruction. Above all he decided that 
the boy should not go to Leipsic, but should 
stay in the country. Then he invited us to 
dinner for the next day, and invited the min- 
isters and councilors of state then present in 
Kassel, to examine Karl a few hours before. 
Both the Germans and the French were 
highly satisfied, and, after holding council, 
decided unanimously that the King should 
supply me with what Leipsic had promised, 
and that I should with my son go to attend 
the university at Halle or Goettingen. I flatly 
refused to go to Halle, and did not even agree 

Karl Goes to College 297 

to Goettingen. Upon my return to Lochau 
I found the following ministerial writing: 

Kassel, July 29, 1810. 
My Pastor: 

I reported to his Majesty the King about the extraor- 
dinary talents and progress of your son, as also about 
your wish to devote yourself entirely to his education. 
His Majesty, always graciously inclined to encourage 
talents, has granted your request to give up your present 
situation at Michaelmas, and has ordered me to provide 
another place for you at the expiration of your son's 

Considering the excellent institutions of learning in the 
Kingdom, His Majesty wishes that your son's education 
be finished within the realm, and, for the purpose of in- 
demnifying you for any other possible offers, grants your 
son for three years from this coming Michaelmas, a yearly 
sum of four hundred dollars, with which to go to Goet- 
tingen and there, under the guidance of the excellent 
teachers of that place, to finish the work begun by you. 

It is a real pleasure to me to announce this favor of 
our Monarch to you, and I shall always be ready to 
furnish you aid and protection during the time of your 
son's academic studies. 

You are granted a two months' leave of absence, until 
Michaelmas, in which to arrange your affairs. I have 
given at the Magdeburg Consistory the necessary notice 
of your resignation. 

I return to you the papers which you have sent mc, 
and assure you of my high respect. 


298 The Education of Karl Witte 

I can report my son's progress as a univer- 
sity student in a few words: He continued 
everything which he had begun with me and 
attended lectures at Goettingen, in company 
with me. In the first semester I took up only 
two for him, ancient history with Heeren, and 
natural science with Mayer. I believed that in 
connection with the latter he would soon see 
the necessity for studying mathematics, as, in 
spite of all the preparation and repetition, 
there occurred occasions in the lectures when, 
on account of insufficient mathematical train- 
ing, he was not able to understand something. 
After a lecture he once said to me, "I did not 
understand it, — I must study mathematics!" 
I provided for this at once. The excellent 
mathematician, Professor F., came that very 
evening and explained to him the difficult 
passage, and immediately started to give him 
a lesson in pure mathematics. My son and I 
will all our lives respectfully and gratefully 
remember this true friend. 

It is well known that all the professors were 
very much satisfied with my son's industry 
and progress. I will, therefore, quote only a 
few of their testimonials, although I have the 
originals of them all: 

Karl Goes to College 299 

The young K. Witte has this winter attended my lec- 
tures in ancient history and geography. I testify that he 
not only has diligently attended them in company with 
his father, but that I have also observed in him an at- 
tention which proceeded from his interest in the subject 
and a power of conception which is remarkable for his 
age. Would that these much promising aptitudes may 
be developed in their proper proportions. 

A. H. L. Heeren. 

It gives me the greatest pleasure to testify to the fact 
that Mr. Karl Witte not only attended my lectures of 
natural science with unabated zeal and industry, but that 
he also has acquired such complete information in all 
the teachings of this science, as far as I have covered it 
in these lectures, that, after several examinations, I have 
become fully convinced of the ability which this hopeful 
vouth has already shown in so many other trials of his 

J. T. Mayer. 

The excellent condition of his health is 
proved by the fact that he did not fall ill that 
winter, for, instead of two or three hours, he 
had frequently to pass five and six hours in 
succession at his desk. Formerly he lived 
chiefly in the open, now he worked in the 
room. After six months of travel there fol- 
lowed six months of absolute rest. I did, in- 
deed, take daily walks with him, but the win- 
ter was unusually rainy and stormy. Often 

300 The Education of Karl Witte 

we had to wander about in a terrible snow- 
storm, in order to get any exercise at all. On 
such days we used to be the only promenaders 
on the Rampart. "If I can bring him safely 
through the winter," I would say, "I shall 
have no further fear for his health." Thank 
Heaven, I succeeded in this. 

As soon as the Easter vacation came, we 
both seized the wander-staff. That startled 
the people, for they expected that I would use 
the intermission in order to review the lec- 
tures with Karl and prepare him for the com- 
ing lectures, but especially in order to visit 
frequently the treasure of Goettingen, its li- 
brary. Our friends were kind enough to 
recommend that to me, but they were also 
sensible enough to listen to my counter-rea- 

"If it were my purpose to make an exhibi- 
tion of Karl, I would stay here. But I do not 
want to make a prodigy of him. I want to 
take care of his body, the expansion of his 
ideas, and the preservation of his good spirits. 
He will have time to learn a lot." 

In the second semester Karl attended Schra- 
der's lectures in botany and Thibaut's in 
mathematics. Here is the latter's testimonial: 

Karl Goes to College 301 

Mr. Karl Witte has this last semester taken part in 
my lectures in pure mathematics, attending them with 
uninterrupted and exemplary diligence. Since I received 
him among my students not without anxiety, lest a con- 
tinuous, abstract, scientific presentation should prove in- 
compatible with his tender age, it is so much the more 
pleasant to me to be able to say that his lively interest in 
all the parts of the sciences presented, even the most diffi- 
cult, has always remained the same. In the solution 
of the problems which were propounded in special hours 
for exercise he has yielded to no student. I may assert, 
in conformity with the strictest truth, that he has al- 
ready given evidence of an excellent aptitude for mathe- 

B. Fr. Thibaut. 

The collection of plants, the classification 
and preservation of them, gave him much ex- 
ercise and pleasure. At the same time he 
drew, learned piano-playing and dancing, and 
carried on mechanical work. He continued 
his ancient and modern languages with me, in 
the philological seminars of Heyne, Mitcher- 
lich, Wunderlich, and Dissen, and with Dr. 
Seebode, all the time we stayed in Goettingen. 
So I shall not mention this fact again, for 
everybody knows that these gentlemen were 
very much satisfied with him. 

During that summer King Hieronymus 
came to Goettingen and, among other things, 

302 The Education of Karl Witte 

visited the Botanical Garden. My son was 
there with other students of botany. Leist no- 
ticed him and directed the king's attention to 
him. The king wanted to speak with him. 
Morio quickly picked him out of the crowd 
and presented him, — and soon afterward me 
also, — to both of the royal personages. The 
king conversed with us graciously for a long 
time, encouraged my son to further industry, 
and assured him, with this condition, of his 
constant, active protection. No sooner had this 
happened, than the first ladies and gentlemen 
of the court began to kiss the boy, as though 
he had become another person. Two generals 
led him between them, as in a triumph, until 
the king stepped into his carriage. Men from 
his entourage encouraged me now to ask for 
two or three hundred dollars of additional 
stipend, which would certainly not be refused. 
But I did not do so, because I preferred 
throughout my life to retrench my wants, 
rather than become troublesome by requests 
of money or offices. 

In the third semester Karl took applied 
mathematics from Thibaut and natural his- 
tory from Blumenbach, and, if I am not mis- 
taken, it was that same winter that Mr. von 

Karl Goes to College 303 

Seckendorf gave lectures on mimicry, which 
we also attended. 

In the fourth semester, chemistry from 
Stromeier and, with Thibaut's express wish, 
mathematical analysis. Here follows the testi- 
monial in regard to this science, which is very 
difficult for a boy not yet twelve years old. 

Mr. Karl Witte in the summer semester of 1812 has 
attended my lectures on analysis and higher geometry. 
In spite of the considerable difficulties which the in- 
crease, both in volume and depth, in the investigation 
of these branches of theoretical mathematics inevitably 
brings with it, he has evinced the same continuous in- 
dustry, the same constant attention as in his former study 
of the elements. Special examinations, based on these 
lectures, have afforded him additional opportunity to 
give conclusive proofs, excluding every doubt of the clear- 
ness, fluency, and thoroughness of the information ac- 
quired, as also of his ability to give a clever exposition 
of the same. 

B. Fr. Thibaut. 

In the fifth, Karl attended Mayer's lectures 
on goniometric instruments, Stronmeier's on 
reagents and the chemical apparatus, Haus- 
mann's on mineralogical terminology and sys- 
tematology, and Thibaut's on differential and 
integral calculus. 

During this winter my son wrote his first 

304 The Education of Karl Witte 

little work on higher mathematics. Thibaut 
had chosen the problem and had even con- 
cealed the name of the resulting curve so that 
Karl could not find any information about it. 
Yet the little work was everywhere received 
favorably. Many persons were particularly 
happy to get the instrument, invented and 
drawn by my son, for the mechanical draw- 
ing of the curve, because it proved most clearly 
his quickness of perception, his knowledge of 
mechanics, and his ability in representation. 

In the sixth semester my son took practical 
geometry from Thibaut, theory of light and 
colors from Maier. French literature from 
Villers, and mineralogy from Hausmann. In 
the seventh semester he took political history 
from Heeren and reviewed ancient history 
with him. 

During the previous summer Thibaut had 
declared to me that my son could learn noth- 
ing more of him. I had formerly wished that 
Karl might repeat some of his mathematical 
studies, but Thibaut insisted that he knew 
from the frequent tests that Karl had com- 
pletely mastered his mathematics. I had also 
been opposed to his having studied the mathe- 
matical branches, especially the higher ones, 

Karl Goes to College 305 

in quick succession. I made strong remon- 
strances when my son in his eleventh year 
began analytics and higher geometry, and 
when he had to take up differential and in- 
tegral calculus in his twelfth year. But 
Thibaut insisted that he possessed the neces- 
sary powers and sufficient desire for them, 
and "what a man likes to do, that is not dif- 
ficult for him." I allowed him to do both 
with great anxiety, but with the two provisos 
(1) that he could stay away, if he found the 
subject too difficult, and (2) that he should 
be allowed to take a subject over, if he had 
not understood it perfectly. Thibaut agreed 
to this, with the jocular remark that there 
would be no need for it, in which he was right. 
More important to me was his paternal 
advice to ask Gaus for private lectures for my 
son, which Gaus was to determine. Gaus 
knew Karl, but, at my request, he examined 
him again very carefully, after which he de- 
clared, "He cannot learn much more from 
lectures, not even from private lectures. But 
I will give him a series of Latin, Italian, and 
French authors, who have treated the higher 
branches of mathematics in the most profound 
manner. He can read them for himself!" I 

306 The Education of Karl Witte 

trembled, for Karl was only thirteen years old. 
"But, Professor," I said, "there is much which 
he will not understand!" "Much? No. Pos- 
sibly a little, in which case I can help him. 
But he will not have occasion to ask often." 

Gaus, too, was right. My son understood 
nearly everything. Cagnoli he grasped com- 
pletely; the few passages, I believe there were 
three of them, in Poisson's "Higher Me- 
chanics," which he found obscure Gaus found 
important enough to give him a written ex- 
planation of them. Even this great scholar 
has taken sympathetic interest in my son. 

Although Karl no longer studied under 
Thibaut, the latter did not lose sight of him. 
"Let him do what he pleases," he once said 
to me, "I am curious to see what he will hit 
upon." I then revealed to him that my son 
was working on a plane trigonometry, but this 
was to be kept secret, because he was not yet 
sure whether time and circumstances would 
allow him to finish the work. Thibaut was 
very glad to hear this, saying, "Let him do 
what he pleases!" When the work was fin- 
ished, he read it and approved the whole, but 
censured a few things, which Karl was grate- 
fully anxious to correct. My son has, perhaps, 

Karl Goes to College 307 

never before worked with such joy, power, 
and endurance, as upon this self-imposed task. 

The work appeared in 18 15, when we were 
living at Heidelberg. To my astonishment 
I soon found a review of it by Thibaut, in 
which he evinced a totally different spirit 
than before. Instead of love there was hatred, 
instead of friendly censure harsh criticism, in- 
stead of a humane consideration for the 
author's youth (thirteen and a half years, 
which Thibaut purposely stated as "about six- 
teen") bitter, I may say, biting condemnation. 
Instead of representation of its clear mean- 
ing — malicious perversion of it. Thibaut has 
harmed us much by his onslaught, but we shall 
not forget his former love. 

I received from His Majesty a continuation 
of the pension for four more years, with the 
gracious permission to use it wherever I found 
it expedient to be for the sake of my son. In 
order to obtain the arrears of the last seven 
months, we had to go to Brunswick, where we 
were introduced to the duke, although he was 
on the point of leaving. He spoke graciously 
to us for a long time. He tried to impress 
upon my son the desirability of going to 
England, where he would recommend him 

308 The Education of Karl Witte 

urgently to his relatives, in order that by their 
aid he might learn everything worth learning. 
The part of the money which was due in 
Brunswick was paid out to me that very day. 

They were not less kind to me at Hanover, 
but, justly, wanted to have a proof of my son's 
knowledge. He had lately lectured to the 
seniors at Salzwedel on mathematics, and his 
lectures had there been received with great 
approval by the most excellent men. He of- 
fered to do something like it here, and merely 
asked for the themes. These were given to 
him from (i) algebra, (2) geometry, (3) 
analytics, (4) analytical trigonometry, (5) 
differential calculus, (6) integral calculus. 
He gave his lecture on the third of May, 18 14, 
in the great auditorium of the Gymnasium. 

The greatest scholars of the city were pres- 
ent. They knew that my son had received the 
themes on the previous day and that he had 
been out in society until late at night. He 
spoke with perfect ease, and yet so clearly and 
in such excellent German that several persons 
present walked back of the desk, because it 
seemed impossible to them that he should be 
able to speak so well without reading it off a 
paper. They smiled when they found they 

Karl Goes to College 309 

were mistaken. But my son, noticing their 
suspicion, left the desk and continued his lec- 
ture at the board, merely looking at his notes, 
in order to read off the themes. The applause 
was universal and enthusiastic. The Govern- 
ment sympathetically offered us a little more 
than was our due. The Duke of Cambridge 
assured us personally of his favor and recom- 
mendation if my son should go to England. 
Hessen, too, paid everything which I justly 
demanded; nay, the elector, like the Duke of 
Brunswick, asked me to state how much I 
was to get. We were several times invited to 
court, where we were showered with kind- 

In his eighth semester my son continued 
higher mathematics, philology, and so forth, 
and took logic from Schulze and analytical 
chemistry from Stromeier. Here is Stro- 
meier's testimonial: 

It gives me pleasure to certify to the fact that Mr. 
Karl Witte this summer semester not only attended my 
lectures on analytical chemistry and the practical exer- 
cises in the laboratory connected with these lectures with 
the same praiseworthy industry and zeal as were shown 
by him previously in my lectures on theoretical chemistry, 
but has also given me repeated proofs of his excellent 
knowledge of chemistry by the good execution of the 

310 The Education of Karl Witte 

chemical operations and analyses entrusted to him in the 
lectures, as well as by the elaboration of chemical sub- 
jects given him for home investigation. 

Dr. Fr. Stromeier. 

During this semester we talked together re- 
garding what he was to study in the future. 
If it had been my intention to make him fa- 
mous in a brief time, I would have allowed 
him to continue to work in mathematical 
physics, chemistry, natural history, and miner- 
alogy, for in all these sciences he was equally 
far advanced. But I was afraid that the deep 
investigations connected with these might not 
be good for his tender years. Moreover, if he 
proceeded on the path on which he had begun, 
he would have to become a professor, and 
that was not in conformity with my wish. So 
I decided that he should cultivate other fields 
of his mind, which heretofore had been lying 
fallow, and that later, in his eighteenth year, 
he should choose his vocation for himself. Ac- 
cordingly I proposed diplomatics to him, 
where he would have to begin with law. His 
former studies had prepared him excellently 
for diplomatics, hence everybody agreed with 
me as to this plan. Only Thibaut, who for- 

Karl Goes to College 311 

merly had urged me on to this move, now was 
sorry that his science was going to lose my 
son. "He can return to it later," I replied, 
"for he is still very young. If he is dissatisfied 
with law, he will certainly return to it." 

During a journey to Wetzlar several mem- 
bers of the philosophical faculty at Giessen 
had a long and thorough conversation with 
my son. Then we were invited to dinner by 
the then Dean, the well-known Professor 
Schaumann, and here we found a select com- 
pany. Suddenly all raised their glasses, drank 
my son's health, calling him "doctor noster," 
and the Dean, with a hearty embrace, handed 
him the following paper signed by himself. 
All persons present wept tears of joy. 

"I. H. Fr. Carolo Witte, Doctori Nostro! 

"My beloved young friend! 

"Like all the public, I have long known of 
you. But it is only in these happy days that I 
have learned objectively how able you are, 
what you have become already. I have 
learned it with sincere joy. God has blessed 
the rare efforts of your worthy father. He is 
a father who rejoices in his son! 

"My esteemed colleagues and I share this 

312 The Education of Karl Witte 

paternal joy. We wish publicly to honor you, 
my friend, and your father through you. 

"Hence I give you the official notice that 
the philosophical faculty yesterday voted 
unanimously to bestow the degree of doctor of 
philosophy upon you, and to send you the 
diploma as soon as it is printed. 

"It gives me rare pleasure to be the first to 
call to you, 'Salve, doctor noster! Salve, salve, 
doctor carissime!' " 

Here are the words of the diploma: 
"To the youth, who is already a man by 
education, of amiable modesty, — in order at 
the same time to honor with the son the father, 
to whom the son owes everything, the degree 
and rights of doctor of philosophy, and so 
forth, to the honor of our university, etc., 
April 10, 1814." 

In Marburg, Ullmann the elder and his col- 
leagues were very happy at the honor con- 
ferred on Karl. Ullmann assured me that if it 
had not happened at Giessen, the University 
of Marburg would have given him the same